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Who was John The Apostle?

 The Apostle John is an extremely important figure when it comes to our knowledge about what Jesus did and taught.  He is also extremely important in early church history.  He was the son of Zebedee and Salome. His brother was James, who was also one of the Twelve Apostles.  He was ready for anything did the most he could out of his love for Christ. 

John Coming To Faith

"Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them."  (Matthew 4:21).  Notice it is Jesus that called John and not the other way around.  

John's Witness of Jesus

John was named as one of the original 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:2).   He and his older brother James were nicknamed "Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17).  The nickname reflected their readiness for anything.  When things went down, John was ready.  Jesus attempted to find accommodations for the night in one place but was met with opposition from the villagers, simply because His destination was Jerusalem—a result of Jew-Samaritan prejudice. “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’” (Luke 9:54). Jesus rebuked the brothers, and they all went to another village.  John was ready to throw down, but Jesus was more merciful than John.

John was part of the most inner circle of Jesus where he was granted the opportunity to see some great events.  The only witnesses of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37), of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), and of the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37).  Jesus specifically only allowed them to witnesses such events (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51).  Jesus chose him for specific tasks as well (Luke 22:8)

Not only was he part of the 12 and in the most inner circle, he, himself, was very close to Jesus
(John 13:23, 21:20).  He was so close to Jesus in fact, that at the cross, Jesus chose him to be the guardian of His mother, Mary (John 19:25-26).

Having this closeness to Jesus himself allowed for him to inquire in greater detail the teachings of Jesus and the mind of God. (Mark 9:38, 10:35, 13:3)

John and The Crucifixion

John was present at the scene of the Crucifixion.  Close enough where Jesus spoke to him while hanging on the cross (John 19:25-26).  Therefore he was an eye witness the moment Jesus let up his spirit and physically died on the cross.

John and The Resurrection

Because of his closeness to Jesus, once Mary discovered the empty tomb, she came and told the unofficial leader of the group, Peter, AND John.  (John 20:2).  It was then John who first recognized the resurrected Jesus (John 21:7).  He was a witness of and with the risen Jesus being taught until Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:2-4).

John and The Accession  

John, and the remaining 10 other Apostles were with Jesus when he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:6-11).  With his own eyes, he saw Jesus literally ascend to heaven.

John's Ministry Work

John began his ministry work with the other Apostles in Jerusalem following Pentecost (Acts 1:13).   They would still attend the temple for prayer but he was becoming more infamous and recognizable.  It is also important to note that John (and Peter) were not wealthy, nor did they seek wealth from all they had experienced.  They instead felt that the message, the gospel of Jesus Christ was far greater than material gain (Acts 3:3).  John's gospel message was validated by God through healing and other miracles (Acts 3:4-11). 
 
This drew the attention of those who disbelieved in Jesus.  John was put in Jail for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 4:1-3, 13).

John then traveled to Samaria (Acts 8:14).  But he made sure that all the people of Israel had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:24).  John verified the Apostle Paul and agreed with the need for the gentiles to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ at the Council of Jerusalem around 51AD (Galatians 2:9).  John, with the other Apostles, remained about twelve years in this first ministry field, until the persecution of Herod Agrippa I led to the scattering of the Apostles through the various provinces of the Roman Empire (Acts 12:1-17).  When Paul came again to Jerusalem after the second and after the third journey (Acts 18:22; 21:17) he seems no longer to have met John there. Some draw the conclusion from this that John left Palestine between the years 52 and 55 AD.

It seems that John then traveled to Ephesus, got arrested, taken to Rome, attempted to be executed but the execution failed, he was then banished to Patmos.  Once the Roman Emperor died, he then traveled back to Ephesus where he remained until his death.

According to Tertullian's testimony (De praescript., xxxvi), John had been thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil before the Porta Latina at Rome without suffering injury.  From there he would have been bannished to Patmos. 

Early tradition says that John was banished to Patmos by the Roman authorities. This tradition is credible because banishment was a common punishment used during the Imperial period for a number of offenses. Among such offenses were the practices of magic and astrology.  Prophecy was viewed by the Romans as belonging to the same category, whether Pagan, Jewish, or Christian. Prophecy with political implications, like that expressed by John in the book of Revelation, would have been perceived as a threat to Roman political power and order. [not to mention not being injured by being thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil would have been viewed as magic].  Three of the islands in the Sporades were places where political offenders were banished. (Pliny, Natural History 4.69–70; Tacitus, Annals 4.30).  Eusebius (Church History III.13.1) and others we are obliged to place the Apostle's banishment to Patmos in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96AD).  After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan.  In "Dialogue with Tryphon" (Chapter 81) Justin Martyr refers to "John, one of the Apostles of Christ" as a witness who had lived "with us", that is, at Ephesus.  Irenæus speaks in very many places of the Apostle John and his residence in Asia and expressly declares that he wrote his Gospel at Ephesus (Against Heresies III.1.1), and that he had lived there until the reign of Trajan (loc. cit., II, xxii, 5).  God spared John from Roman execution so that he would write his letters and ultimately Revelations.  

Different Johns?

Some modern scholars argue that there are many different Johns that wrote the various letters attributed to John The Apostle.  Eusebius states "It is said that in this persecution the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word."  Here Eusebius associates the titles of apostle and evangelist to one John.  Then Eusebius then states "It was at this time that the apostle John returned from his banishment in the island and took up his abode at Ephesus, according to an ancient Christian tradition."  So there is no confusion that Eusebius stated that the evangelist John as the same John that was banished and returned to Ephesus.  In Chapter 3, he again states "At that time the apostle and evangelist John, the one whom Jesus loved, was still living in Asia, and governing the churches of that region, having returned after the death of Domitian from his exile on the island."  This time, also associating the comment "one whom Jesus loved" with John The Evangelist.  Irenæus and Clement of Alexandria. stated (quoted by Eusebius) "The former in the second book of his work Against Heresies, writes as follows: And all the elders that associated with John the disciple of the Lord in Asia bear witness that John delivered it to them. For he remained among them until the time of Trajan...And in the third book of the same work he attests the same thing in the following words: But the church in Ephesus also, which was founded by Paul, and where John remained until the time of Trajan, is a faithful witness of the apostolic tradition.

Some modern scholars try to make the claim that Revelations or Apocalypse of John was written by a different John.  But Irenaeus states this: "Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies of the Apocalypse, and those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony to it" (Chapter XXX).  Eusebius states: "After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings."  He states that the Apocalypse of John belongs with all the accepted writings from the Apostles.  Secondly, notice, the author is named along with The Apostle Peter.  Tertullian validates The Apocalypse of John as authoritative as he uses it to as proof (Book III). 

John The Apostle and John The Evangelist are the same person but titles given to the different phases of witness.  After being an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he then became an evangelist to all the world about what he had experienced and learned as an Apostle.  The different title does not denote a different person.  John of Patmos clearly just signifies the location in the discussion about John.  Again, does not automatically denote a different John.  John The Presbyter is a title that denotes a managing spiritual role within the church.  Again, does not denote a different person, just a different role.  When considering the life of John, we see that he endured different phases within the church.  He went from being an Apostle of Jesus, to Evangelist and proclaiming what Jesus taught.  Then, when the church was more established, he took a more Presbyter role in establishing the next generation of leaders. Thus, The Apostle John was also an Evangelist, Presbyter, and Elder. 

What about 2 John and 3 John?

In these letters, John identifies himself as an "Elder".  Does this mean it is a different John?  Not exactly.  Peter calls himself and Elder in 1 Peter 5:1.  And there is no question, 1 Peter was written by Apostle Peter.  In the Gospel of John, he does not use his own name; because it was not about him.  In his letters he does, because of the authority and truth of his witness.

There are similarities between passages in the Johannine epistles and the writings of Polycarp and Papias.  Which could make sense considering they were both disciples of John.  Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses 3.16.8 (written c. 180), quotes 2 John as authority from the Apostles.  The Muratorian Canon seems to refer to two letters of John only but when considering the type of letter 3 John was, a personal letter, it may not have been circulated due to the personal nature of the letter.  One factor which helps explain the late attestation of 3 John and the doubts about its authority is the very short nature of the letter; early writers may simply not have had occasion to quote from it.  Other possibilities, due to the shortness and similarity to 2 John, it may have been considered part of 2 John.  Regardless, All three Johannine epistles were recognized by the 39th festal letter of Athanasius, the Synod of Hippo and the Council of Carthage.

The Disciples of John

Papias;  Eusebius, in his "Chronicle" he expressly calls the Apostle John the teacher of Papias ("ad annum Abrah 2114") as does Jerome also in Ep. lxxv, "Ad Theodoram", iii, and in Illustrious Men 18.  Irenæus also positively designates the Apostle and Evangelist John as the teacher of Papias, and neither he nor any other writer before Eusebius had any idea of a other person named John in Asia (Against Heresies V.33.4). 

Ignatius writes to John, calls him the Holy Presbyter and connects this name to being closely related to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Also notice John is absent from them [probably in Patmos or Ephesus at this time] and Ignatius also points out that "She is the lady of our new religion and repentance".  Jesus told John to personally care for his mother and the fact that Ignatius states their faith is "new" shows the closeness to the origins of the faith. (IGNATIUS, First Epistle to St John)

"Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom...There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” (IRENÆUS, Chapter III).

Who was John, personally?

John was a fisherman in his families fishing business.  He then met Jesus and became a disciple of Jesus.  He became so close to Jesus he was called the one whom Jesus loved.  He was there for it all.  The miracles, rare miraculous moments, at the cross, seeing the empty tomb, recognizing the risen Jesus, witnessing Jesus' ascension, traveling to proclaim Jesus Christ, establishing churches and disciplining some of the most predominate church fathers. 

John was ride or die with Jesus.  He was ready to throw down at a moments notice if Jesus commanded anything.  He was ready to call down fire from heaven to destroy hostel forces for Jesus.  Of course, Jesus rebuked them, seeing how unnecessary that was; he was still willing.  He was arrested and Roman attempted to execute him but they could not.  Despite facing death, the proclaimed Jesus regardless of what the world threw at him.  He was threatened, arrested, almost executed, and banished; yet never stopped writing, teaching, and proclaiming. 

It was his passion for Christ that gave him the drive and will to continue and do to what ever was asked of him by God.  He loved Christ so dearly, his own life did not count.  His passion for Christ is seen in his disciples.  They thoroughly knew the truth of God, and he ensured they did.  He even wrote personal letters to show the love of Christ.  He wanted everyone to love Christ the way Christ deserved to be loved; utmost selfless self sacrificial devotion.

What Did John Teach Specifically?
  • Apostolic Authority
    • eye witnesses 1 John 1:1-3,5, 4:14; Rev. 1:2, 11, 19, 21:8
    • Test anyone claiming to be an Apostle Rev. 2:2
  •  Completeness of Scripture
    • Scripture Alone 1 John 1:4, 2:24, 27, 5:13, 20; Rev. 22:18-19
    • Going too far and teaching what scripture does not teach 2 John 1:9
  • God The Father
    • Jesus was with the father and came from the father 1 John 1:2 
    • Jesus is our only advocate with The Father 1 John 2:2
    • God alone adopts his chosen children 1 John 3:1, 5:2
    • God The Father sent his Son 1 John 4:14
  • God The Son
    • Deity of Jesus 1 John 1:2 
    • Jesus, Son of God 1 John 1:3, 2 John 1:3
    • Jesus is the only way to salvation 1 John 2:23, 4:9, 5:11-12
    • Jesus is God's only begotten Son 1 John 4:9
    • Only Jesus is holy and worthy Rev. 4:1-5, 5:11-14
  • God The Holy Spirit
    • The Spirit enables us to love God 1 John 3:24 
    • The Spirit testifies about Jesus Christ 1 John 5:6
      • The Holy Spirit is God 1 John 5:9-10
  • God
    • God's love is perfected by loving God and our neighbor 1 John 2:5 
    • God is omniscient 1 John 3:20 
    • Commanded to believe in The Son Jesus Christ and love one another 1 John 3:23, 2 John 1:5-6
    • God is love 1 John 4:8, 16
    • God alone is due all glory and praise, on earth and in heaven Rev. 4:9-11
  • Jesus the Son of Man
    • Sinlessness of Jesus 1 John 3:5 
    • Physically died, but lives forever Rev. 1:17-18
  • Satan
    • The Evil One 1 John 2:13-14 
    • The devil 1 John 3:8
    • Those who live in sin, are of the devil, not of God 1 John 3:8
    • Sinners without Christ are Children of The Devil 1 John 3:10
    • Satan can not touch Children of God 1 John 5:18
    • The world lies in the power of the evil one 1 John 5:19
    • Satan imprisons faithful Christians Rev 2:10
      • Polycarp of Smyrna, along with fellow believers was arrested, traveled to Rome and martyred in the Colosseum in around 150AD.  Only 55 or so years after Rev. 2:9-10 was penned.
  • Sin
    • Sinlessness is a lie, all are sinners 1 John 1:8,10
    • Recognition of sin 1 John 1:9
    • Faith in Jesus covers all our sins 1 John 2:1
    • Jesus alone, pleased God for our sin payment 1 John 2:3, 4:10
    • Jesus' payment for sin can cover all sins in all the world 1 John 2:3 
    • lust of the flesh, pride of life is not of God 1 John 2:16
    • Sin is lawlessness 1 John 3:4
    • Hate is murder 1 John 3:15
    • We did not love God, but God loved us 1 John 4:10, 19
    • God forgives all sins, except apostasy and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit 1 John 5:16-17
    • Total depravity Rev. 1:5
  • Election
    • anointing from God, not man 1 John 2:27 
    • The church is chosen 2 John 1:1
  • Salvation
    • False claims of salvation 1 John 1:6, 2:4, 9, 11, 15, 19, 4:20
    • Jesus' Atonement, not works 1 John 1:7, 2:12
    • Jesus died for all sins, past, present, and future 1 John 1:7,9
    • Once saved, always saved 1 John 2:19, 3:9, 4:17, 5:18; Rev. 3:5
    • The chosen are anointed by God 1 John 2:20, 4:10
    • Jesus promises eternal life, not material gains 1 John 2:25
    • free from sin and covered by Jesus' sinlessness 1 John 3:6
    • three proofs of salvation through Jesus: baptism, Jesus' blood, and the Holy Spirit 1 John 5:6
  • Christian Living
    • Spiritual maturity 1 John 2:1,18
    • Keeping Jesus' command to love God and our neighbor 1 John 2:3, 10, 3:11, 4:11, 21
    • Imitate Jesus 1 John 2:6, 29, 3:7
    • Do not love the world or material possessions 1 John 2:15
    • Seek the will of God 1 John 2:17
    • true love is selfless self sacrificial 1 John 3:16
      • helping the needed is love 1 John 3:17
      • true love manifests in deeds 1 John 3:18
    • Guard our selves from making idols 1 John 5:21 
    • No greater joy than walking in truth 3 John 1:4
    • God reproves and disciplines those he loves Rev. 3:19
    • Support godly believers 3 John 1:8, 12
    • Poverty is not a sign lack of Godly favor Rev. 2:9
      • Wealth can be a sign of spiritual poverty Rev. 3:17
  • Prayer
    • we receive what ever we ask because we are inline with God's will 1 John 3:22 
    • All that which is according to God's Will 1 John 5:14
  • The Future
    • The world is passing away 1 John 2:17 
    • The last hour of the world 1 John 2:18
    • Many antichrists have came 1 John 2:18
    • The tribulation has already started Rev. 1:9
    • Jesus is coming back 1 John 2:28
      • Every one will witness his return Rev. 1:7
    • Our glorification 1 John 3:2-3
    • A great multitude, countless, from every nation and all tribes will die during the great tribulation Rev. 7:9,14
    • The Seventh Seal and the beginning of the destruction of the universe and God's judgement on the world Rev. 8:7-13
    • Jesus will come in a robe dripping with blood of his enemies Rev. 19:13-16
    • Final judgement of all people, past and present Rev. 20:12-15
    • New heaven and new earth Rev. 21:1-2
    • God makes all things new Rev. 21:5
  • False Prophets, Antichrists, deceivers
    • Test all claims 1 John 4:1
    • Many antichrists have come 1 John 2:18
    • Many false prophets are in the world 1 John 4:1
    • Anitchrists deny Jesus as Christ and only Messiah 1 John 2:22
    • Anitchrists deny the Son of God and God The Father 1 John 2:22
    • they try and deceive 1 John 2:26, 3:7
      • no one has seen God at any time 1 John 4:12 
      • Faith is the victory, not health, wealth or prosperity 1 John 5:4
    • some Deceivers say Christ was not in the flesh 2 John 1:7 
    • Do not receive False Prophets, Antichrists, deceivers into your house 2 John 1:10
      • receiving and entertaining them is participating with them 2 John 1:11
    • The world hates you for your faith 1 John 3:13
    • The spirit of the Antichrist is already in the world 1 John 4:3
    • They are from the world, and the world listens to them 1 John 4:5
    • Call people out by name 3 John 1:9-10; Rev. 2:6, 20

John saw extraordinary things and was empowered by God to do extraordinary things.  His testimony and witness was critical for the church.  His direct influence was immeasurable.  He, himself, (through the power of the Holy Spirit) discipled Polycarp, Papias, and Ignatius.  Polycarp (died 155AD) discipled Irenaeus, and Irenaeus (died 202AD) in turn discipled Hippolytus of Rome (died 235AD). Origen of Alexandria (died 255AD) heard Hippolytus preach as a young man.  The funeral of Hippolytus was conducted by Justin the Confessor who was also later martyred for refusing to denounce his faith in 269AD; a faith that stemmed all the way down from John The Apostle's testimony and witness almost 170 years earlier.

When looking at what The Apostle John taught and did, it is hard to recognize his influence in the popular church teachers now.   He boldly proclaimed the deepest truths of God, preached about sin and repentance, warned about false prophets and antichrists, and dared to call people out by name.  A boldness that more modern preachers would find "too offensive".  Even his teachings about true love do not reflect the 'self love' teachings of modern preachers.  Does your preacher teach like John The Apostle of Jesus Christ?


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