Part 4: John’s Gospel
Throughout this series of blogs, we’ve been investigating Jesus’ teaching about the future in the Gospels. In Part 1 and Part 2, we focused our attention on Jesus’ primary teaching about the future in the Olivet Discourse. In Part 3, we explored his other teachings about the future throughout the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke). To close this series, we turn now to the Gospel of John. What does John’s Gospel add to our understanding of Jesus’ teaching about the future? To begin with, you’ll notice that John’s account of Jesus’ teaching is congruent with the accounts in the Synoptics, but also distinct in several ways. First, John does not use “this generation” language. In addition, he stresses the “already” dimension of Jesus’ coming without denying the future dimension of the second coming and final consummation. Scholars refer to this as John’s “realized eschatology.” “What’s more, John virtually omits reference to God’s kingdom (except for John 3:3, 5) and instead features numerous references to eternal life” (p. 154). From this, we see that John significantly deepens Jesus’ teaching about the future “by broadening its scope and probing its deeper theological significance” (p. 154).
Future Persecution and Escalating Conflict
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus often refers to the persecution of his followers. John also develops this theme in the “Farewell” or “Upper Room Discourse.” Here Jesus shows us that the disciples’ persecution is grounded in their election (John 15:19) and is followed by their sanctification (John 17:17). This sanctification is followed by service and mission (John 17:18). For this purpose, Jesus and the Father will send the Holy Spirit to undergird the disciples’ witness (John 15:26–27). “In this way, all three persons of the Godhead will empower the believing community’s mission, bound together in love and unity (John 17:20–26)” (p. 156).
John’s Gospel also strikes a tone of realism concerning the future (John 16:1–2) and “includes an anticipatory glimpse of such ostracism in the case of man born blind (John 9)” (p. 157). In the same way, Jesus’ followers will be cast out of the synagogue. As in the Synoptics, John also focuses quite a bit of attention on the growing conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. We see this especially in chapters 5–10 where the references to “the imminent persecution of his followers follow on the heels of a pattern of escalating conflict” (p. 157). In contrast to the Synoptics, however, John does not feature references to “this generation” or focus explicitly on the destruction of Jerusalem as God’s judgment for rejecting the Messiah. “This could be because John wrote a decade to two after the destruction of the temple and was more concerned to present Jesus as the replacement of the temple” (p. 158).
Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:1–44 illustrates John’s development of future resurrection and final judgment, and it also serves as an “acted-out demonstration of two views of eschatology” (p. 161). Martha knew Lazarus would rise again on the last day; Jesus showed her that he also brings life right now!
My Father’s House and the New Creation
Jesus gives two other spectacular images concerning the future in John’s Gospel. The first is the image of the “Father’s house.” Jesus reassures his followers that he is preparing a place for them to dwell, much like God prepared the Promised Land for the Israelites to dwell (e.g., Deut 1:29–33). After preparing a place for believers, Jesus promises to come again, a clear reference to his second coming (cf. John 21:22–23). The terminology here is similar to the language used in the Song of Solomon of the bride and her groom (Song 8:2). “This imagery beautifully anticipates the depiction of the wedding supper of the Lamb in the book of Revelation (Revelation 19:6–9)” (p. 164).
Second, John invites us to rejoice in the new creation that Jesus will bring. John 18–20 employs garden and creation imagery, indicating that Jesus’ death and resurrection have inaugurated a new creation that will far surpass the glory of the original creation. In line with this, it’s also significant that the entire Gospel is filled with references to life (e.g., “eternal life”) as well as “light” and “darkness” symbolism. “John’s narrative builds inexorably from creation to new creation, spanning the entire range from preexistent, glorious Word to the enfleshed Word’s return to its preexistent glory following its death, burial, and resurrection” (p. 167).
In this brief investigation, we’ve seen that John, more than any other Gospel, “draws out the eschatological implications of Jesus’ first coming more fully, showing that we needn’t simply wait for the second coming to experience the end-time benefits of Jesus’ coming. In this vein, Jesus asserts that believers in Jesus have eternal life already in the here and now, in keeping with Jesus’ purpose (John 10:10)” (p. 168). And here’s the bottom line: “We must trust in Jesus in the here and now so that we will receive eternal life and escape eternal judgment. This is the message of John’s Gospel from the beginning purpose statement (1:12) to the closing purpose statement (20:30–31) and everywhere in between” (p. 168).
Note: This blog is based upon Jesus and the Future: Understanding What He Taught about the End Times by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Alexander E. Stewart, and Apollo Makara. It was written by Mark Baker and Jimmy Roh, both Ph.D. students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and edited by Andreas Köstenberger, senior research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern.