Peter, don’t you worry about how I work with John—you just follow me!
The Apostle John recorded this statement of Jesus Christ near the end of the 21st chapter of his Gospel.
Jesus Christ, after enduring a brutal beating and execution, was resurrected and returned to show Himself to His disciples (John 21:1). After instructing Peter to “feed my lambs” and “feed my sheep,” Christ said to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not” (verse 18). Then verse 19 explains the significance of that statement: “This spake he, signifying by what death he [Peter] should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”
Peter knew he was going to be a martyr for God. That is not an easy burden to live with. Of course, Christ endured the same trial in a spectacular way. But how difficult would it be to do God’s Work when you know you’re going to be killed in service to God?
Jesus Christ told Peter very bluntly, Just follow me—don’t worry about anything else. This was a mild rebuke.
Those were pretty strong words for Peter—as well as for the other disciples who knew they would be martyred. Following Christ meant that they would be brutally murdered. Of course, these men had an inspiring vision that propelled them forward in God’s Work, and they also had the ultimate example of Jesus Christ, who had given Himself to be martyred for God’s cause.
Each of those 12 apostles is going to rule over one of the 12 tribes of Israel in God’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:28). They will all be rewarded handsomely for what they did.
But at this moment, Peter had doubts. Peter looked at John, and thought, Why should I have to die if he gets to live? This really bothered Peter. Knowing he would be a martyr became more difficult for Peter when he learned that John would not be martyred. So he asked Christ about it.
“Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22).
What is that to you, Peter? Christ asked him very directly and personally.
Christ asks the same question of you—of each one of us. God gives each of us different responsibilities, but we are all critical to the functioning of the Body of Christ, and to finishing God’s Work.
After Christ’s statement, Peter and the other disciples talked about it like it was big news that one of them wouldn’t die (though Christ didn’t say that—verse 23). But the truth is, it is appointed for all men once to die—and God says that the death of one of His saints is precious! (Psalm 116:15). Precious!
Which one of us wouldn’t trade places with Peter and the apostles today—when you consider what God is going to give them? Those men glorified God, and God is going to glorify them in a spectacular way!
You’ll never go wrong if you follow Christ. Glorify God now and He will glorify you forever!
This is a vision we must cling to. Then nothing can stop us—not even death.
In the Beginning
The Gospel of John may have as much depth as any book in the Bible.
John the apostle was a deeply spiritual man, and had an unusually close relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ gave him special instruction during their time together like no other.
The first three Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—are called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning they all cover essentially the same sequence of events in Jesus Christ’s life.
John was different. He had quite a radically different message than the other Gospel writers. John didn’t write this book until about 30 years after the events it depicts, so he had a lot of time to contemplate what had occurred and what it all meant.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
In the first verse of his Gospel, John takes us back to a time when there was just God and the Word. What a way to introduce his Gospel. It is unlike any other introduction in the Bible—it talks about before any angelic or material creation—before time began!
Westcott Commentary says, “In the Synoptic Gospels, there is no direct statement of the preexistence of Christ.” But John introduces his Gospel talking a great deal about the preexistence of Christ—when He was inhabiting eternity with God as the Word (Isaiah 57:15). John went back to the origin—to before there was an angel or a universe or a man—to before these two Gods were Father and Son.
The Synoptic Gospels discuss the history of Christ on Earth. John focuses more on the history of the Word—the great God whom Christ was before He came to this Earth. John brings us in at the “beginning of the movie.” John also gives great emphasis to the end of the spiritual movie. He gives a deeper meaning to the Synoptic Gospels. John shows us that God the Word had to be sacrificed. Only the death of God could pay the terrifying penalty for our sins.
Follow John’s story flow in the first 18 verses of his Gospel, and you will see that he skips over the angelic plan—what we could call Plan A. He goes from that earliest beginning straight into the plan for man. Plan A had obviously failed in a grandiose way. That should sober us, because we can fail too!
God commissioned Lucifer and one third of the angels to govern the Earth God’s way, so all of the angels could be given rule over the universe. However, the angels failed this test. At that point, God knew that only He was qualified to rule the universe. So He implemented Plan B—that of recreating Himself in man.
John totally omits the angelic Plan A. There is a hidden but extremely ominousWARNINGin that omission.
The angels failed because they refused to administer God’s government on Earth. Today, God’s firstfruits are being tested to see if we can administer God’s government in His Church and in our own lives.
At the same time, we see that the angelic Plan A has been blotted out—it is no more. That knowledge should sober all of God’s people in this most majestic calling. We have seen 95 percent of God’s people turn away in this Laodicean era of the Church (prophesied in Revelation 3:14-22; request our book Malachi’s Message for an explanation), so we realize how dangerous this knowledge is.
John immediately began talking about Plan B, the plan that would work.
“So mark well this super-vital truism,” Herbert W. Armstrong explained in The Incredible Human Potential, “that perfect, holy and righteous character is the supreme feat of accomplishment possible for Almighty God the Creator ….” God’s supreme feat is to re-create Himself. Plan B was His plan to do just that.
“Now came the CROWNING PINNACLE of even God’s unmatched creative power!” Mr. Armstrong continued. “Now came the very zenith of all divine accomplishment! Now came a project so incredulously transcendentlyawesome it is hard for the human mind to grasp.” God was going to re-create Himself in man!
But there was tremendous risk involved in Plan B. It required sending one of only two Gods to Earth—in order to die for the sins of the world.
“The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2). The Word was “with” God. That means He had been perfectly united with Him for all eternity!
There was no disunity in the entire universe until Lucifer rebelled.
Can you see why God is trying to bring us together and unify us? That is how God and the Word have lived forever! They know that their eternal Family must have that unity if it is to extend peace and beauty throughout the universe.
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (verses 4-5). Some prejudiced people say the Jews are to blame for Christ’s death. God tells us that, in fact, the whole world is responsible! Anyone who can’t recognize that is spiritually blind! The world is in darkness—and it is about to get much darker. This whole world desperately needs to receive the light of God. Here is the only source of life and light.
The Apostle John captured the Word’s eternal past, which sheds a bright light on the present and our transcendental future. We see the whole movie—and it is full of God’s magnificent light and eternal glory!
With this history, we can understand who Christ was before He came to this Earth. We get a deeper understanding of the penalty that had to be paid for our sins. God used John to open up a vision of when we become God beings!
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John [the Baptist]. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light” (verses 6-8). God is the source of all that light. John the Baptist came to bear witness of that Light.
No writer in the Bible even comes close to emphasizing the word witness as the Apostle John does. Here is the number of verses in which the word is used: eight times in his epistles and 21 times in his Gospel. The other Gospels use it a combined total of 18 times. The Anchor Bible says the verb martyrein, which means to bear witness or testify, and the noun martyria, which means witness or testimony, occur 64 times in the Gospel of John and his epistles. The Apostle John emphasized these two words, witness and testify, far more than all the other apostles.
You can see that those Greek words are closely related to our English word martyr.
If you witness for God, sometimes you end up being a martyr! Witnessing for God can be rough in some situations. We don’t know exactly what God is going to require of us.
Did people love John the Baptist because he bore witness of Christ? No, actually he was thrown in prison—where he did his greatest work. To his last moment of life, he was a witness for God. Herod had John’s head delivered on a platter. What a noble ending!
Why was he a witness? “[T]hat all men through him might believe”! God used John to try to get some hard-headed people to believe—both in John’s day and, because his example is recorded in Scripture, through the ages to today! Being a witness for God can bring trials—but it also brings a multitude of blessings now, and a beautiful outcome in the future!
Power to Become Sons of God
“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:9-11). John didn’t spend any time pleading with evolutionists. But he did imply that they were rebels! Christ created mankind—and they rejected Him. That means the world rebelled and continues to rebel against Christ. There is something dangerously incomplete about man.
But notice: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (verse 12).
It takes power to become sons of God! The Word and God gave thispowerto you and me—and we mustuseit!
The word translated power also means right or privilege. And what a privilege it is. How can we not be excited about this right and privilege? We have a birthright to become sons of God! How deeply do we understand that?
God’s firstfruits are the most blessed people on Earth many times over! These words ought to rattle the universe! We have the right and the privilege to become sons of God and rule with God as the Bride of Christ for all eternity!
This is what John was trying to get everyone to see. What a future! How can we be Laodicean about that?
Look at a close relationship between a father and a son in a strong physical family. Take that up to the God level, and that is God and you—God and His son. That is wonderful times wonderful times wonderful!
Fiery, brilliant angels were never given the opportunity to become sons of God. This is the ultimate creation of God.
Man has now been given the transcendental potential to rule the entire universe forever—not as angels, but as sons of God!
We will be God beings like you read about in the first chapters of Ezekiel and Revelation. This vision should take our breath away.
To none of the angels—which are so powerful and fiery that we would faint if we saw them—did God ever say, You are my son (Hebrews 1:5). That potential is reserved only for men. What a calling we have!
Do we understand that truth as John understood it? It truly challenges our thinking!
The Word Made Flesh
“And the Word was made flesh …” John 1:14 begins. That statement is the essence of these first 18 verses in John’s Gospel.
The Word was made flesh. We need to understand why He was made flesh—and why John took us back to this earliest beginning.
That verse continues, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us ….” The Word became Christ, who dwelled, or tabernacled, on Earth as a flesh-and-blood man. He is not asking us to do anything He didn’t do. He became a human being and assumed a “temporary booth,” a physical, corruptible body, just like you and I have. He had to die, just as we have to die.
God became dust—so that we might become sons of God!
John was different from the other Gospel writers—and all of the biblical writers, for that matter—in a number of ways. He is the only one who wrote about the Word. John provided an overview and showed us how God views everything! John gives us a perspective from the Word—from God Himself! Christ helped him in a special way to achieve that perspective.
The Word was made flesh. Why? How wonderful and exciting this is!
Look at these events from God’s view, and it will just about make you faint. Imagine the God of Revelation 1, whose face is like the sun in its full strength, deciding to become dust! And why? So God could have a Family, and give people the right and the privilege to be a son of God! So His Family could extend His Work out into the universe, which scientists say is still expanding.
How do you describe a love like that? It should cause us to shout for joy! This is the love of God; there is nothing like it in this world—nothing to even compare it to. Look at the world and see what happens without God’s love: nothing but rebellion, chaos and destruction.
We now have a transcendent potential: The Messiah and the Father are re-creating themselves in men! Men now have the privilege and the honor to be sons of God. The problem is, we don’t see that as fully and as powerfully as we should.
This is revelation about two God Beings expanding to billions of God beings! Not an easy feat. The God of Revelation 1 became dust and risked His eternal life to make it happen!
This world has never understood God’s love. The Father took a chance on losing His only eternal Son so He could have a family of billions. The Eternal was made flesh that we might be made eternal Family members.
It takes the Holy Spirit to fathom this love of God.
Declare the Father
“John bare witness of him [Christ], and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:15-16).
The word cried means to speak with a strong voice, to cry out publicly. John cried out boldly about Christ’s first coming. We have to publicly proclaim about Christ’s Second Coming—the greatest event ever to occur in the universe!
Will our voice match the event? This is the greatest news that mankind has ever heard! You and I have the honor to introduce Christ to the world.
Grace keeps being heaped upon grace. Each blessing received becomes the foundation of another blessing. The more we know, the better it gets. The more we see, the more wonderful it is, to the point where we canface deathand rejoice!
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (verse 18). That was Christ’s number-one job, and He passionately declared the Father.
That is exactly what God wants us to do! If you don’t declare the Father, you don’t understand about the Family of God and the gospel. If you don’t get beyond Jesus Christ, you don’t get it! Christ declared the Father. We are commanded to follow His example. Study John’s Gospel and take note of how often he refers to the Father. It far exceeds any other book in the Bible. When John talks about declaring the Father, it doesn’t mean Christ just mentioned His name. This subject just keeps unfolding and unfolding and unfolding because it is so, so deep. Christ’s mind was absolutely focused on the Father. The whole time He lived on Earth, Jesus Christ focused on His Father continually and always! He was passionately loyal to His Father and totally committed to His Family! This world has never seen such an exceptionally beautiful example of family devotion.
Thayer’s Lexicon defines the word declared as “to draw out in narrative; unfold in teaching.” The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible defines it, to “declare thoroughly and particularly … unfolding through teaching.”
Learning this profound message is a lifelong process of hard work. We must study long and hard to show ourselves approved.
Traditional “Christianity” has no concept of what Christ is teaching here. If we are ever going to understand the God Family—which is the essence of Christ’s gospel—we must focus on the Father. This is the foundation of all that Christ taught! That teaching was followed by a perfect masterpiece of submission by the Son to the Father! The Word—this eternally existing God Being—came to this Earth to declare His Father.
This is the most inspiring message there ever will be, and yet Christianity and the world have been blinded to it!
You could spend your life studying the Gospel of John and never reach its full depth, and it all revolves around the Father—the God Family. The Word was made flesh to declare that message—not to teach a message about Himself!
Christ prepared John in a special way to write this message in a book for all mankind. John had a unique and awesome gift for writing. He was used to give an inspiring depth to all the Gospels—and to the entire Bible.
This is the vision that Satan tries to confuse or destroy first and foremost. That is exactly what happened to the Laodiceans today. In the first verse addressed to the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14), Christ discusses “the beginning of the creation of God.” God warns them very severely about where they have gone astray. The Laodiceans lost the Word, or Logos, vision first. They have forgotten why the Word came to this Earth as the Son of God!
Satan knows this is the foundation of all deception. If he can deceive us here, our spiritual house will collapse.
What a marvelous introduction John gives us here. This is an introduction like no other in the Bible. The Word became flesh. The other three Gospel writers touch on it, but John puts this epic event on center stage.
In the next chapter, we will see where you come into the picture.