John wrote the book of Revelation about A.D. 95. Later, after John’s exile on Patmos, he wrote three epistles and a gospel that bears his name. The gospel of John is much more than his recollection of personal experiences with Jesus; it also contains “new truth” which Jesus revealed to John when he wrote the book. This is why John’s gospel differs considerably from the other three. At the beginning of the second century A.D., Christianity was in trouble. The spiritual condition of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3 reveals how quickly a church can apostatize. Therefore, to help the believers, Jesus gave John information that would have resolved many conflicts if church leaders had considered and implemented the Gospel of John.
The Gospel of John is only surpassed by the book of Revelation in revealing all that Jesus is and the book of John is a theological cornerstone. John, with divine influence, wrote the Gospel of John for those who received the “early rain” in the same way he wrote the “Revelation of Jesus” for those who will receive the “latter rain.” It is so ironic that while God gave the Gospel of John to settle conflicts between early Christians, the very first sentence ignited a conflict that continues to endure through today! “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God [the Father], and the Word was God [just like the Father].” (John 1:1, insertions mine)
Jesus wants His followers to know that He is a God just like the Father is a God. The first sentence in the Gospel of John declares that two separate, distinct, coeternal Gods existed before creation. Many early Christians (mostly Jewish converts) strongly opposed the idea that Jesus was deity (because Jewish tradition rejected polytheism) and other early Christians (mostly Gentile converts) easily embraced the idea that Jesus was deity just like the Father because polytheism was not a strange concept for them. After centuries of lively dispute over the deity of Jesus, church leaders in Rome terminated the conflict during the sixth century. Their solution was a disaster. The Catholic Church claimed there is one God who manifests Himself as three persons (thus, monotheism was preserved and the appearance of polytheism was recognized). The Catholic Church and many Protestant churches today try to maintain this futile compromise.
The Catholic solution (one God manifesting Himself as three persons) is not a viable solution because it places the Bible in a state of internal conflict. Internal conflict occurs when one Bible verse violates the meaning of another. For example, in Revelation 5, the Father conducted a search throughout the universe for someone worthy to receive the book sealed with seven seals. Eventually (according to the Catholic solution), the Father found another version of Himself to be the only person in the universe worthy to open the book. This conclusion is nonsense. The Father is not Jesus and Jesus is not the Father. The Catholic solution also makes the Bible unintelligible. For example, if there is only one God manifesting Himself as three persons, we have to consider who spoke from Heaven at Jesus’ baptism and said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Does the Father mean, “I’m very happy with myself?” Additionally, if there is only one God manifesting Himself as three persons, we have to consider who prayed to whom before going to the cross. Jesus said, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ ” (Luke 22:42) If there is one God manifesting Himself as three persons, why would Jesus pray to Himself, saying “not my will, but yours be done?” Of course, a single God does not have two separate, distinct wills.
In John 1:1, Jesus declared to John that He and the Father are separate, distinct, coeternal Gods. Last month, we learned that Jesus is called “The Word” because the Father speaks through Jesus. The Father is an invisible God (Colossians 1:15; John 6:46) and He lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16); therefore, when the Father has something to say, He speaks through the only God that is a visible God. (1 John 1:1)
Jesus is the Creator of Everything That Exists
John 1 reveals another fact about Jesus and, strange as it may seem, many Christians still do not believe that Jesus is the Creator of everything! They think the Father created the universe, but John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. . . He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” (John 1:14,10) Jesus created the universe, the angels, everything in Heaven, mankind, and everything on Earth. Jesus creates whatever the Father wants created. “For by Him [Jesus] all things were created: Things in Heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him [Jesus] and for Him [the Father].” (Colossians 1:16, insertions mine)
It is important to know that Jesus is the Creator, the Father speaks through Jesus, and that Jesus is a God who was with the Father before anything was created, because these facts indicate there is more than one God! In fact, later in this series of studies we will learn that three Gods function as one God! The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit decided to set up the operation of the Trinity in this way and this arrangement is one of the most beautiful things that a human being can contemplate.
Given what we know from John 1, consider Isaiah 44:6, 24. “This is what the Lord [Jehovah] says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. . . This is what the Lord [Jehovah] says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the Earth by myself.” Is it the Father or Jesus speaking in this verse? Before you answer, zoom forward in time about 750 years to A.D. 95. John is exiled on the island of Patmos and one Sabbath day, He received a vision. “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. . . I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. . . When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades [the grave].’ ” (Revelation 1:10-18, insertions mine)
John saw someone who was dead, but is alive forever and ever, who was the first and the last, and who held the keys of death and Hades. Only one possible individual could be this person: Jesus. Isaiah 44:6,24 referred to Israel’s King and Redeemer; as someone who stretched out the Heavens and spread out the Earth all by Himself; and someone who was the first and the last and apart from Him, there is no God. The only individual who fulfills these three elements is Jesus! However, this raises a couple of questions. How can Jesus say that apart from Him, there is no God if the Father is also a God? How can Jesus say that He is the first and the last if He was with the Father in the beginning?
My understanding is that when Jesus spoke to Isaiah, Isaiah interpreted His words within the context of monotheism. Israel did not know that two Gods existed (although the Old Testament offers several hints). The time had not yet come for Israel to know about two Gods. Therefore, the only God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament was Jesus. Notice what this means: Jesus created Adam and Eve. Jesus sent the flood in Noah’s day. Jesus was the Almighty God who spoke with Abraham and Moses. Jesus passed over Egypt killing the firstborn. Jesus delivered Israel out of Egypt. Jesus spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. More than 97% of the time, the Jehovah [eternal God] mentioned in the Old Testament is Jesus. Now that we understand there are many references to Jesus in the Old Testament, perhaps the infinite sorrow found in this statement will make sense: “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11)
Apostasy overtakes people when people refuse “new light.” When a religious body becomes set in its ways, whatever truth it may have will become stagnant. When truth becomes tradition, tradition becomes absolute truth. Of course, the Father understands the process and this is why He is constantly releasing “new light” to freshen and expand the body of truth that exists. (Ephesians 3:1-6) When people reject “new light,” they cannot prevent themselves from falling into darkness (apostasy) because the light of truth never stops moving forward. Therefore, if we insist on standing firm on our traditions and refuse to move forward with “new light,” we will soon be left in darkness.
Tradition Versus Truth
Suppose you were a priest in Israel at the time of Christ. Naturally, you would be deeply committed to the doctrine of monotheism. Moreover, you would have memorized (among many Scriptures) Isaiah 54:5: “For your Maker is your husband — the Lord [Jehovah] Almighty is His name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the Earth.” Given your religious knowledge, what would you have thought if Jesus physically stood before you claiming to be Jehovah, “the God of all the Earth?” You would not believe that a homeless man could be Israel’s Maker and Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the Earth unless the Father revealed it to you.
The disciples struggled to understand who Jesus was. One day, Jesus tested His disciples: “ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven.’ ” (Matthew 16:15-17) Even John the Baptist had a moment of doubt during the final days of his life. (Matthew 11:3) However, after the disciples saw Jesus die on the cross and ascend to Heaven, their faith in Him became unshakeable.
John wrote: “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:2, italics mine) Jesus is Jehovah (an eternal God) just like the Father. He is the only one who has ever seen the Father: “No one has ever seen God [the Father] but God [Jesus Christ] the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” (John 1:18) So, Jesus came to Earth with “new light” from Heaven during the 70th week of Daniel 9. The Father wanted to terminate fourteen centuries of Jewish monotheism and a few people in Israel eventually saw “the light.” “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men!” (John 1:4)
“New light” never ends. “New light” always produces conflict because leaving tradition is a social and religious test of faith. Of course, not everything called “new light” is “new light.” The devil produces so many lies that many people feel safer if they stay with tradition. Standing firm in tradition is much easier than embracing new light with its social and religious consequences. Therefore, common sense dictates that no one should abandon religious tradition without prayer, careful Bible study, and an honest investigation. No one should abandon religious tradition without seeking and receiving confirmation (peace about the matter) from the Holy Spirit. Finally, no one should abandon religious tradition for any other reason than an honest desire to walk in the light of truth. Those who love truth are always eager to know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit even better!