Lesson 2: John's Prologue/ Old Testament Review/ Kingdom
John 1: 1-18, 20:30-31
A Blending of the Four Gospel Records. Lesson # 2. Welcome again! We tried in our first lesson, to observe how each writer introduced his writing. Luke started with a preface and addressed his book to Theophilus. John started with an 18 verse prologue. And John freely admits (John 20:30) that his purpose was to help us believe in Jesus Christ as God's Son. All four writers sought to accomplish this same purpose. These books are more than mere biographies of Jesus. Their purpose was (and is) to produce faith. The Holy Spirit gave us what it takes to develop faith. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17).
If your bookmarks are not working, let's review John's prologue. Get your eyes on the text! In the first verse (John 1:1), the apostle personifies Jesus as the WORD. Notice that 'WORD'; is capitalized and substituted for Jesus Christ. Now a literal WORD is a medium of communication (or exchange of thought) between two persons. How does that fit Jesus? In I Tim. 2:5 we learn: Jesus is the mediator between God and man. Like a literal word connects the speaker to the hearer, Jesus is the mediator between God and man. In v.2, John said this Word (i.e. Jesus) was with God in the beginning. V.3 tells us all things were made by Jesus. Did you realize that? Then, down in v.14, John says: that Word 'was made flesh, and dwelt among us...'; Do you see the verbal concept? Jesus Christ was translated from God to man somewhat like a word is translated from Greek into English. Then, John switches from the verbal figure to a visual figure down in v.7 where Jesus is personified as light. Light is capitalized. Jesus was the TRUE light (v.9) 'which lighteth every man...' So, just as words convey thought AND as light conveys understanding (you see), God is declared through Jesus Christ. Now, look at v.18. 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.' Thus, you CANNOT know God except through Jesus Christ. Observe that the word "declared" is in past tense. Thus, John is writing after the fact; i.e. AFTER God was declared through Jesus Christ. Also, interwoven into this "light" figure is another important concept. The John that's mentioned in v.6 is John the Baptist? Jesus said on more than one occasion: "I am the light of the world." But did you know others have made similar claims? The pope claims to be Lord God on earth. Many have come claiming to speak for God in our generation: Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Sun Mung Moon, Jim Jones. You can probably think of 10 more. Here's the point, mere claims do not establish one as a prophet. In John 5:31, Jesus said: "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is NOT true." Now, that doesn't mean His testimony was false. The point is, it takes MORE PROOF and MORE EVIDENCE than merely proclaiming one's self. God does not require YOU to believe, even in Jesus, without reasonable evidence. Thus, v.7 in our text tells us the mission of John the Baptist. "The same came for a WITNESS, to bear WITNESS of the Light, [i.e. a witness of Jesus] that all men through him might believe." Why did John the Baptist come? That all men (how many is that?), that all men might believe. So, in effect, John the Baptist's mission was the same as the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John's writings. Now, why is it so important to believe in Jesus Christ as God's Son? Contrary to modern theology, believing in Jesus Christ does NOT make you (or anyone else) a child of God, i.e. a son of God...I'm talking about becoming a Christian. No such claims are made in the Bible! O.K. then why believe? The answer is in v.12. Look at it close! Notice this is expressed in the past tense. "But as many as received him..." i.e. as many as BELIEVED in Jesus Christ. Now, what about THEM? "To them gave he POWER TO BECOME the sons of God..." So, you see, believing is only the first step. If you believe in Jesus Christ, then (and only then) God gives you the POWER TO BECOME. Now, get it straight! POWER TO BECOME a child of God is NOT THE SAME as becoming a child of God. For example, one may have the power (or authority) and means to become an alcoholic. Does that mean one is an alcoholic? Not necessarily. Thus, one can have the POWER TO BECOME and still not become, you see. To inherit eternal life, you must become a child of God; not just have the power to become. You must exercise that power. Romans 8:17 says, "IF!" "If CHILDREN, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ..." That is repeated again in Gal. 4:7. Thus, the question arises: How does one get to be a child of God? i.e. a son of God as v.12 puts it? How does one get into a family? How does one get the family name (Eph. 3:15)? How does a child get into any family? You say, well, they must be BORN into that family! You've got it! Look at v.13. That's the word, same sentence! Over on the next page (John ch. 3), John quotes Jesus like this,. "Except a MAN be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God." John 3:5 says THAT involves "water" and "Spirit." That's another expression for baptism. Now, gaze again at v.12-13. Remember, these books were written after the time of Jesus. Thus, John had reference to the MANY who had already become Christians. How had they become sons of God (i.e. Christians)? First they believed! Then God gave them the POWER TO BECOME. Then, they exercised that POWER TO BECOME (v.13), they "were born...of God." Now, that birth was not of flesh and blood. See that? That birth is not accomplished by man's will. Thus, the birth takes place in a realm which is beyond man's control. Thus, in one sentence (of two verses) John placed the plan of salvation in his prologue. This prologue may be short, but you better read it about 10 more times. John built his book like a lean-to. This prologue is what the rest of the book leans on to. So, if you have John's prologue, you have John's theology. The rest is history.
You will remember, we agreed to follow Luke's gospel as our main artery. Mark, Luke and the apostle John all began their accounts with John the Baptist. Matthew gets to John the Baptist in his third chapter. So John the Baptist comes next in the natural order of our study.
But before we get to John; I believe we need to see the N.T. growing out of the O.T. Thus, I suggest we do a quickie review of the O.T. first and then try to establish clearly in your mind this O.T.— N.T. relationship. Someone has said, the O.T. is the N.T. concealed. And, the N.T. is the O.T. revealed. A review is going to take several minutes; but let's review. John said that Jesus was with God in the beginning. He WAS God (John 1:1). He became flesh and dwelt on earth as a man (v.14). Now, if you have read the O.T., you know the story of Adam and Eve. They were created and placed in the garden of Eden. They deliberately disobeyed God. Then they were driven out of the garden. This was some 4,000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. And, that's not some myth, or an old-wives tale, that's the way it happened. Adam and Eve began to rear a family. Three sons are mentioned by name (in Gen. ch. 4), Cain, Abel and Seth. Seth was born after Cain killed Abel. Adam lived 800 years after Seth was born (Gen. 5:4). Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters NOT mentioned by name. But, Gen. ch. 5 traces nine generations from Adam to Noah. Now, Noah was the tenth person in that lineage. Noah came through Adam's son, Seth...not through Cain or Abel. The average age for those nine generations was 912 years, if you exclude Enoch, who did not die; but was translated at the age of 365 years. Gen. 7:6 says: "Noah was 600 years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth." That happened about 1600 year after the garden of Eden. Noah's three sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) and their wives were all that survived the flood. Gen. 6:5-8 teaches clearly, there was a purpose behind the flood. It was God's way of saving the righteous out of that old antediluvian world. Eight people out of millions. Then Gen. ch. 10 traces the descendents of Shem, Ham and Japheth. There is a wealth of information coded into that chapter, of which very few people ever see any significance. Not only do those names represent people, they represent the places where Noah's descendents settled. It was through Noah's son Shem, that Jesus Christ finally came. Gen. ch. 11 traces nine more generations from Shem to Abraham. Counting Shem and Abraham, ten people are involved. Thus, Abraham was the 20th person in the lineage from Adam. Abraham stands out because God made some special promises to Abraham. Through Abraham, the Lord said all families of the earth would be blessed. That's Gen. 12:3. That promise had reference to Jesus Christ. This is clearly stated in Gal. 3:16. Abraham was given several other promises or prophecies including the fact that his descendants would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years (Gen. 15:13). As of then, Abraham had no children. But, ultimately he was given Isaac according to that promise. Then, Abraham's great-grandsons (through Isaac's son Jacob) became the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. And it was to these people that God gave the 10 commandment law through Moses after they had spent several generations as slaves down in Egypt. These 12 tribes of Israel were given special favor in the sight of God. They came out of Egypt and were settled in the land of Cannan by God's influence. From the time they received the law on Mt. Sinai, until the birth of Jesus, was about 1500 years. Gal. 3:19 says, that law: "was added because of transgressions, til the seed should come..." Now, that seed THAT SHOULD COME was Jesus Christ. This is clearly stated in v.16 of the same chapter. The record of those 15 centuries make up about nine-tenths of the O.T's volume. It's a record of many heartaches AND disobedience after disobedience. Paul in I Cor. 10:5 summarized this by saying: "with many of them God was NOT well pleased..." Jeremiah 31:32 ends by the Lord saying: "my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them." And, that's a very apt description. Hundreds of prophecies were given during that period. Almost every aspect of Jesus' life and mission was foretold and written down by inspired prophets. This has been preserved for us in that book we call the O.T. For example, 15 centuries before Christ's birth; God told Moses: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words into his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him" (Deut. 18:18). Now, it couldn't be said plainer. In Isaiah 7:14, it was foretold the Messiah would be born of a virgin and even his name is given there. Isaiah 53:2 says that He would have no beauty that we should desire him. The next verse says, he would be a man of sorrows. V.5 says he was wounded (or tormented) for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. Malachi (the last book of the O.T.) tells that a messenger would be sent to prepare the way before the Lord came (Mai. 3:1). Malachi figuratively called this messenger Elijah (Mai. 4:5). Apparently, describing the personality and lifestyle of the messenger, i.e. John the Baptist, that was to precede Jesus. This was prophesied more than 400 years before the fact. Thus, Jesus did NOT merely proclaim himself, the evidence that Jesus was THAT Word of God (translated into flesh to live as a man) could NOT be documented more thoroughly.
Another aspect of O.T. prophecy, that is commonly misunderstood relates to the idea of a kingdom. As we cover Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; please observe how often the word "kingdom" is used. To make you more acutely aware of this, I would like for you to complete the "KINGDOM" WORKSHEET that should have been included in the materials you received. Get that in your hand. Have you got it? The word KINGDOM is used about 125 times in these four books. Now, that's the first blank on your
WORKSHEET. So, fill in that blank now. The answer is "125" times. Now, don't let this frustrate you, turn the tape off for a minute if you need to. Back-up the tape, if you need to. But, get your "KINGDOM" WORKSHEET started NOW. Incidentally, don't turn in these worksheets with your tests. These worksheets are for your benefit. O.K., Matthew and Luke used that term "kingdom" more often. And, that's your second answer on your sheet. Did you get it? Now, I'll let you take it from there. The word "kingdom" is translated from a Greek word, that simply means: "royalty" or to "rule." The word "kingdom" is ALWAYS SINGULAR when referring to that spiritual covenant foretold in the O.T. So, there's only ONE kingdom prophesied in the O.T. and only ONE kingdom discussed by Jesus and his apostles in these four biographies, (i.e. one spiritual kingdom). Matthew (with very few exceptions) uses the phrase "kingdom of HEAVEN" in his account. Luke (almost without exception) uses: "kingdom of GOD" in his book. These phrases are used interchangeably. The spiritual idea is a REALM or a DOMAIN composed of God's citizens, who submit to Him...i.e. Christians today, to put it very plainly. THEN, you need to latch on to THIS: the word "kingdom" (in its spiritual sense) is used synonymously with several other words and phrases. For example, in Isaiah 9:6 there is a prophecy which says: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the GOVERNMENT shallbe upon his shoulders: his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Now all those names apply to Jesus. But did you notice it said "THE GOVERNMENT shall be upon HIS shoulders." Now, the word "government" there is synonymous with our word "kingdom." So, on your WORKSHEET there is a place to list synonymous word. Do you see it? Write in GOVERNMENT in the first slot. Have you got it? Alright, I'm NOT going to give you any more words here; but as our study progresses and you discover other words (i.e. synonymous with "kingdom") put them into this list. I'll try to remember to help you the first time or two. Try to latch on to this KINGDOM CONCEPT quickly. A flurry of interchangeable words tends to confuse some of us, at first. And, this concept is ceased upon, by some, perverted and used to teach false doctrines.
O.K. back to the grind. A common O.T. prophecy that involves this KINGDOM CONCEPT is Dan. 2:44. It says, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John this spiritual kingdom idea is ALWAYS (without exception) spoken of as future...IN THE FUTURE. But, after Acts chapter two in the N.T., it is ALWAYS (without exception) spoken of as present and established. Jesus is the King of this kingdom. Christians are the citizens and Christ's law (the N.T.) is it's constitution. Much of Jesus' teaching (including his parables) had reference to this spiritual kingdom.
These writers understood how important it is for you and me to believe on Jesus Christ as God's Son. Heb. 11:6 says without faith it's impossible to please God. To develop faith, we need evidence. These four gospel records provide that evidence. But, they are inseparably connected to the O.T., in which we have tried to review during this lesson. The kingdom concept is a vital link in that evidence. That's why these writers put so much emphasis upon O.T. prophecy. It's where we get that faith that gives us the power to become, as John put it (1:12). Now James 2:24 clearly says we are not justified by faith only. In other words we are obligated to exercise our faith. And that corroborate John's prologue statement (v.12-13), you see. Until lesson # 3, have a good day!