New Testament Eschatology: Part 7 of 7 Johannine Writings

Johannine Epistles

The Johannine Epistles reference the presence of the last days by repeatedly mentioning the presence of the antichrist. 1 John 2:18 states, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” Also, 1 John 2:28 mentions Christ’s future second coming which may happen at any moment, and so Christians should persevere until his coming so that at Christ’s coming they may be confident that they “shall be like him, for [they] shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Revelation

The book of Revelation opens by explaining that Christ through his resurrection has taken the position of “ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5) and has in his possession the “keys of death and Hades” (Rev 1:18). Christ is the eschatological messianic king, and he has established his messianic kingdom. Christ is the “firstborn from among the dead,” (1:5) and so his resurrection has inaugurated the fulfillment of the resurrection of the saints who will rule with him in his kingdom. Revelation expects the imminent return of Christ where he will judge the ungodly (6:12-17) and reward and bless his people (11:18). Christ will establish his kingdom in its final, complete, and eternal form (11:15-17).

New Testament Eschatology: Part 3 of 7 Gospel of John

Like the synoptic gospels, the Gospel of John refers to a future final judgement and bodily resurrection that is coming on “the last day” (Gr. τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ). In John 12:48, Jesus states, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” In John 6:40, Jesus states, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (See also 6:39, 44, 54; 11:24.) It was believed that when the messiah comes, he would exist forever (John 12:34), and so Jesus promises that those who are in him will have “eternal life” (Gr. ζωὴν αἰώνιον) or life that will continue “unto the age” (Gr. εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα) (John 4:14; 6:51, 58)[1]

The Gospel of John uses more emphatic language than the synoptic gospels in describing the inaugurated “latter days.” In John 5:24-29, Jesus explains that the resurrection and eternal life has already come and is coming in the future. Jesus states,

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

 Furthermore, in John 16, Jesus signals the beginning of the “latter days” by stating “a time is coming” (v. 2, 25, 32) and “in fact has come” (v. 32) when referring to a future and present tribulation. Lastly, in John 4:21-24, Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, and he states, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (v. 21), and “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (v. 23).[2]


[1] G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 131. [2] Beale, A New Testament, 131-134.

Jesus’ Death

In the Gospel of John, there are numerous statements by Jesus foretelling his imminent death (see 12:7; 16:16; 16:28; 18:4) and statements describing his loving willingness to give his life in order to follow God’s salvation plan (see 13:1; 15:13). The prophecy of Caiaphas “that it would be good if one man die for the people” (11:50-52; 18:13) indicates that God’s purpose was being fulfilled. Moreover, when Jesus was handed over to Pilate, he says that Pilate would not have the power to crucify him if it were not given to him from above (19:11). Pilate was acting in accordance with the will and authority of God.

Jesus is described in the Gospel of John as the Lamb of God (1:29, 36). This is sacrificial imagery, and so the significance of Jesus’ death is sacrificial in character. Jesus describes his sacrifice further in 6:51f where he is talking about the bread which he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. In 12:24, Jesus explains that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (ESV). Also, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11 ESV). These statements are using sacrificial imagery; therefore, Jesus is describing the necessary and vicarious sacrifice of his life that he voluntarily gives in order to redeem the world (Guthrie 458). Jesus’ faithful obedience unto death brings forgiveness, sanctification and eternal life.

The Gospel of John describes the significance of Jesus’ death by emphasizing his exaltation. Several places in the Gospel of John Jesus is described as “being lifted up” or “exalted” (see 3:14-15; 8:28; 12:32-33). This has double meaning because on the one hand Jesus is not being lifted up or exalted to a throne but on a cross, and on the other hand, it is his death on the cross that leads to his exalted glorification. Joel Green explains this motif, as it is presented in the Gospel of John, when he writes, “the life of the son of God is best understood as a journey: He comes from his pre-existent state in heaven, dwells among women and men, then returns to heaven. He who descended from glory must ascend to glory” (162). Jesus’ death is the means by which his exalted return to the Father is accomplished, and at the same time, his lifting up to death on a cross is the ultimate expression of the love of God (3:16) (Green 163).


Works Cited

Green, Joel. “Death of Jesus” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, et al. Inter-Varsity Press, 2003. 

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Theology. Inter-Varsity Press, 1990.

Jesus’ Ministry in the Gospel of John

In view of the life and ministry of Jesus, there are many distinguishing characteristics to consider. In fact, Jesus’ ministry was so extensive that this may have inspired the author of the Gospel of John to write, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25 NIV). For this discussion, Jesus’ ministry could be narrowed down to his ministry as prophet, priest and king.

First, Jesus’ ministry was a prophetic ministry. Jesus’ own understanding of himself was that of a Spirit anointed prophet (John 3:34) who was a bearer of the word of God (John 7:37-40) and who spoke with authority and divine knowledge (John 2:24-25). Furthermore, Jesus’ miracles testified to his prophetic ministry (John 9:17), and he was recognized as a prophet by those who heard his teaching (John 4:17-19) and witnessed his miracles (John 6:14). The prophet John the Baptist proclaims that Jesus is the greatest prophet (John 1:15).

Second, Jesus’ ministry was a priestly ministry. Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb of God” in the Gospel of John (1:29). Thus, he is likened to a sacrificial lamb that was killed in order to atone for the sins of the people. This sacrifice of a lamb was performed by the high priest who was interceding on behalf of the people and representing them before God. Similarly, Jesus being a fully human high priest represented humanity before God and interceded on their behalf. He is also a fully divine high priest in that he is perfect and without sin. Thus, he did not have to offer sacrifice for his own sin, but rather he made atonement for the sins of humanity by his own sacrificial death (Heb 2:17). When Jesus sacrificed his life, it was a “once for all” atonement (Heb 7:27). Although Jesus fully completed this vital priestly duty, his priestly ministry continues for eternity as he continually intercedes (Heb 7:24-25) and brings people close to God (Heb 10:19-22).

Third, Jesus’ ministry is a kingly ministry. Jesus is the promised messianic king from the line of David. In fact, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king (John 12:12-15), but his kingship is unlike any other. He enters the city riding a donkey revealing the humble servant nature of his kingship. He is a king that delivers and heals his people from spiritual oppression by his suffering and death. Jesus is the king of the kingdom of God that has come to earth through his life and ministry. At his trial before Pilate, Jesus states, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) signifying that the kingdom of God is far greater than any earthly kingdom. The most powerful king subjected himself to the torture and crucifixion by an inferior earthly king in order to fulfill his kingdom mission. Jesus’ death and resurrection established him as an eternal king who rules and reigns over the nations, and in the future, his kingly ministry and kingdom will come in fullness (Phil 2:10-11; Rev 11:15).

Jesus in the Gospel of John

The Gospel of John begins with a prologue (1:1-18) introducing Jesus as the λογος (logos), meaning the “Word.”  The concept of λογος (logos) used as a designation or as “the independent, personified ‘Word’ (of God)” (Bauer et al. 480) is derived from Jewish Wisdom literature and has parallels in Hellenistic literature (Guthrie 326). The Gospel of John connects the idea of λογος (logos) with the personification of Wisdom in the Hebrew scriptures and then describes Jesus in a similar way demonstrating that he “is the true manifestation of the Wisdom of God” (Pate et al. 164).

The Gospel of John emphasizes the λογος (logos) concept in order to describe Jesus’ relationship with the Father. John 1:1 starts with “In the beginning…” which alludes to Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created….” This describes the  pre-creation state where God created everything with his divine words, and so when the full statement of John 1:1 is read as “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” it is describing the pre-existing λογος (logos) and clearly stating the deity of the λογος (logos) while remaining distinguished from God─the Father (i.e. the Word was with God) (Guthrie 327). This Divine λογος (logos) becomes Jesus who is God─the Son and who continues in an eternal relationship the Father.

Furthermore, the Gospel of John emphasizes the λογος (logos) concept in order to explain Jesus’ relationship with humans. John 1:14 states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (NIV). This shows that in the incarnate Word, God has returned to his people and pitched his tent among them which alludes back to Exodus 33 where God tabernacled with the Israelites; therefore, as the Israelites witnessed the glory of the Lord fill the tabernacle, the people saw the glory of the incarnate Word─Jesus (Pate et al. 167).

Closely related to the emphasis on the λογος (logos) in the Gospel of John is the emphasis on Jesus’ miracles and on the messianic titles given to him by people which point to Jesus’ divinity. Furthermore, Jesus’ use of “I AM” statements connects the Hebrew covenant name for God (Exod 3:4) with himself, and then he calls God his Father which meant that he was equal with God.

Another emphasis about Jesus that is unique to the Gospel of John is the portrayal of Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29 cf. 1:36). Thus, he is likened to a sacrificial lamb of the Jewish Passover that was killed in order to atone for the sins of the people. This sacrifice of a lamb was performed by the high priest who was interceding on behalf of the people and representing them before God. The concept of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the reference to the Jewish Passover throughout the book (see 2:13; 6:4; 11:55, 12:1), and the passion narrative of Jesus express the wonder of the Gospel─ “that God himself provides the offering which humankind itself cannot provide” (Marshall 434).


Works Cited

Bauer, Walter et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  Chicago, IL : University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Theology. Inter-Varsity Press, 1990.

Marshall, I.H. “Lamb of God.” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, et al. Inter-Varsity Press, 2003, pp. 432-434.

Pate, C. Marvin et al. The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology. Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.