One commentary calls the last chapter of John, the 21st chapter, an appendix to the Gospel. Chapter 20 provides a strong conclusion about faith, so, this commentary reasons, chapter 21 is tacked on and really shouldn’t conclude the book.
The authors of that commentary are presumptuous and wrong. Chapter 21 is the perfect conclusion. If you understand it, you can see why the world would miss the point. People don’t understand anything about the love of God! At one time, Peter didn’t understand it either, so God had to straighten him out. Only John’s account includes this incident.
John 21 begins by describing a scene after Christ had been crucified and resurrected, when His time on Earth was just about over. The Word had been made flesh, persecuted, brutally beaten and killed. He had risked losing His eternal life. This was the greatest act of love ever by the Father and the Son. Yet it appears Peter was discouraged and just wanted to fish. Other disciples joined him at sea, but they weren’t catching any fish. Christ appeared to them, on the shore, though they didn’t recognize Him at first. When He instructed them to cast their net on the other side of the ship, suddenly they began catching all kinds of fish! This miracle caused John to recognize who they were talking to. “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord” (verse 7). At once, recognizing that this was the resurrected Word, Peter became so emotional that he dove into the sea.
Notice the exchange that followed.
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs” (verse 15). Christ had carried out the ultimate act of love, and now He wanted to discuss the disciples’ love. Remember, the Bride must think like her Husband. This is a deep lesson in God’s love.
I believe Jesus Christ called him “Simon” because he was acting like Simon. He wasn’t acting like the Peter that Jesus Christ wanted him to be—the stone—the physical leader of the disciples and of the Church!
“Peter,” He asked, “do you love me more than all these?”
Remember what Peter had said not long before: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33). In other words, These other guys may reject you, but I won’t. Christ then prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times that very night. When the prophecy proved true, Peter wept bitterly! There is no indication in Scripture that he was even present at Christ’s crucifixion. Peter was a very depressed man. He didn’t live up to his own expectations of himself; he didn’t do what he knew God wanted him to do.
But Jesus Christ wasn’t finished with him. And of course, those men didn’t have God’s Holy Spirit in them at that time.
Nevertheless, Christ’s question made Peter feel uneasy. Peter, do you love me? Do you agape me—have the love of God for me?
In the end, Judas didn’t love Christ. Lucifer didn’t. The Laodiceans do not love Christ today. But there is a love that will endure. To withstand crises, we must have this agape love—a love that is not in human beings. We must love Jesus Christ through everything in order to enter the Family of God, and that means keeping the law of God (1 John 5:3). That is what Christ was talking to Peter about.
Like many millions in this world, Peter thought he loved God—but he did not.
Jesus Christ had just set a marvelous example of lawkeeping and love for the disciples. They witnessed that, and they knew something was terribly wrong with themselves. They could contrast what their Savior had just done with the fact that they had all run away when trouble came.
So John concluded his Gospel with this lesson. He is the only Gospel writer who did this. The world doesn’t recognize this, because it doesn’t have that love. Lacking this love, most people betray Christ when pressure comes. They don’t know anything about the sacrificial love of God. They don’t understand that you and I could lay down our lives for a friend, or for our mate, or for God simply because we have something in us called agape—the love of God.
Peter lacked the love of God, and Christ was showing that to him. He wants us to learn this lesson too. If we love Christ, we remain loyal to Him—even if we have to die!
Christ’s Two-Part Commission
At the end of John 21:15, Christ told Peter, “Feed my lambs.”
I have never understood this verse before: When Christ talks about lambs, He is discussing people who are not yet sheep. They have that potential, but have not yet been converted. He is referring to prospective members, co-workers and others God sends His message to.
In other words, Christ instructed Peter to get His message out to the world! This is God’s number-one commission for His Church.
The word lambs also helps us see how deeply God loves the people of this world—in spite of their rebellion. They were created to become members of God’s Family, but first they must be converted and become God’s sheep. God’s plan is to save the world—not just those of us called today! Those billions of people in this world are potential sheep in God’s flock. Christ died for the world (John 3:16).
Can you sacrifice your life for the world as Christ did? Are you that committed to doing and finishing God’s Work, as Christ was? (John 4:34). Are you that dedicated to getting God’s message to the world?
Is God’s love in you?
Then there was something else Christ wanted Peter to do. “He saith unto him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:16).
Sheep refers to the second part of the Church’s two-fold commission—feeding the Spirit-begotten members of the Church. They must be fed to grow and be born into God’s Family.
Jesus Christ was talking about the Work of God.
Fulfilling this two-fold commission requires the love of God!
The only way we will fulfill the Great Commission of going to the world is if we love the world. Christ told Peter, If you don’t have this love in you, you’re not going to love the world by getting out there and doing everything possible to feed those people! I want you to love them, and help them understand God’s purpose. God’s Church is a witness to the world in that way. Even if unconverted people understand only a part of God’s purpose today, that’s a start.
We are also responsible for distributing God’s message to His Laodicean people. That requires tremendous love! My late wife referred to Malachi’s Message as “a book of love,” because it was a warning to God’s precious Family. It really is a book of love! God rebukes and even scourges people He loves (Hebrews 12:6). We send this message to the Family because we love them, and we want to see them make it into the eternal Family of God! They have turned from God, but He hasn’t stopped loving them.
If you love people, you help distribute God’s message to them—whether they are lambs or sheep. You are active in doing the Work and getting the message out. All of our pieces of literature are books of God’s agape love. That is what we are all about!
This is a work of love. We must have God’s love in us, or we won’t help give this message to the world and to God’s people. That is what Christ was trying to get across to His disciples in the final chapter of the book of John, just before He returned to God the Father—after He finished the Father’s Work.
Peter learned the lesson and was martyred because of doing God’s Work, as Christ was. Would you be a martyr for God’s Work?
The Glory of Stars
“The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). That is going to happen.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (verses 50-51).
Right now, those who have died in the truth are onlysleepingfor a little while—it isn’t even death! It’s theopposite,as a matter of fact. Eternal life awaits them!
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (verse 52). What a wonderful, beautiful change that will be.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? … But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (verses 55, 57-58).
None of your efforts in advancing the Work of God are in vain. Paul tells us to abound in that Work! We are going to be rewarded beyond our imagination! That reward is worth all the trials and tests and difficulties many times over!
1 John 3:1-3 say that when Christ appears, we are going to be like Him. And if we have that hope in us—and only if we have that hope in us—we will purify ourselves. If we see the Family of God and the marriage, that causes us to do whatever we have to in order to be pure and righteous and good the way God is.
Here is a verse you will want to remember: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:41).
Look up in the sky at night and you can see that the stars differ from one another in glory. God is saying that the same is true of us spiritually. In the Kingdom of God, we are going to be rewarded according to what we do. We will be given brilliance, the brightness of the firmament—and we will shine like the stars—according to our righteousness, and according to how many people we helped turn to God (Daniel 12:3). That is how we gain our spirit brilliance. The more we do that, the more brilliance we will have. That’s what the Bible teaches. God is right now building that resplendent temple, and creating our offices in it! He is preparing our wonderful future—and He is going to reward us according to what we have done.
Is it worth that effort?
Oh, is it ever worth it! Is it ever worth it!
Offices in God’s House
Jesus Christ said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many [offices]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2).
Jesus Christ is telling us the way to keep our hearts from being troubled. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever have negative, depressing thoughts—we have to battle there. But these verses give us the ultimate way to keep ourselves untroubled, and that is by putting our focus on the “Father’s house.”
Where is the Father’s house? In the Millennium, it will be the temple in Jerusalem. But Christ was talking about a time beyond the Millennium, because the office we hold in the Millennium will carry over into eternity! Revelation 3:12 says we will “go no more out” of that temple. We will work from the Father’s house forever!
The temples that men of God have built have been patterned after the heavenly temple. Ezra 8:29 talks about “the chambers of the house of the Lord.” Jeremiah 35:2 talks about chambers, or offices, in that house. Jeremiah 36:10 talks about “the chamber of Gemariah,” which shows that he had a certain rank and an office in God’s house equal to that rank. 1 Kings 6:5 refers to those chambers in Solomon’s temple—offices all around the temple.
The Father’s house is being built in heaven. It will be brought to Earth with new Jerusalem after there is no more flesh on Earth. That will be a time when there are only spirit beings, after the Last Great Day.
The new Jerusalem will be filled with real offices! We will live and work in that beautiful, fabulous, magnificent house forever with our Father and our Husband!
Christ said He would go and “prepare a place for you”—you, individually! (John 14:3). You need to take this personally! God will ensure we each have a place—an appropriate office. God’s house is being built around the personnel Jesus Christ has! The place each of us occupies will depend on what we do. We will be rewarded according to our worksand what we have done to help God’s Work. It really is that practical. Think about this carefully as you help God’s Work.
Revelation 21:1-4 describe that future temple: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them [on this Earth], and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
This is the kind of office God is preparing for us now as we work! He has been preparing offices for all of the firstfruits throughout the ages. Your office will match your overcoming and conquering, and God holds you accountable according to what talents you have. That is a very fair deal.
As 1 Corinthians 15:41 says, the stars differ in glory. So will our future glory differ according to our works. Our glory will match how much our heart was in God’s Work.
Your eternal glory is far more important than anything in this world. Don’t get caught up in physical beauty or things. The beauty you want to devote your passion to is this eternal beauty! This is what Jesus Christ wrapped His mind in. It was everything to Him!
Christ also said in John 14:3, “… I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” He will receive you—each one of you.
The whole creation plan was reorganized after Lucifer rebelled. The entire universe plan then focused on the creation of man! God’s sons are now on center stage.
The whole creation—everything you see—will be reorganized around God’s house! It will extend out into the universe. Never again will we witness the depravity we see on Earth today. Earth will be headquarters for all eternity.
The greatest tragedy ever is to turn your back on this future!
Christ is talking about the Father’s house. You are a potential son, and God has given you therightto be born into the Family of God and reside right there in your Father’s house!
We must keep this focus the way the Logos had it. The Word was made flesh, and throughout His time on Earth He continually pointed to the Father, and how the Father was opening up His Family to humankind. This is a message about the Family of God! This is a message about your Father! We have to get beyond Jesus Christ in that sense and realize we are sons of God! And we’re going to be in our Father’s house for eternity.
To be called in this age is the most dazzling, wonderful opportunity a human being could ever have! If people who have known the Father fail to recognize that, that is a horrible tragedy.
Jesus Christ is trying to hammer this truth into our minds so we will never lose it! He is trying to build His love into us so we will root out our vanity and rebellion, devote ourselves to His Work, and stay with Him to the end!
Our offices in God’s house are more real than the rooms in our physical houses. A weather disaster could destroy your physical house—but your office in God’s house can never be destroyed if you remain loyal to God.
Thank God every day for being a son of God and the Bride of Christ! There is absolutely nothing to compare with that.