The Gospel Revealed in the 3 Writings of John the Apostle

(Article 3 of 3 in the Gospel Revealed series)

As a quick review, we have already seen in 2 previous articles (please read “The Gospel Revealed In Two Words” and “The Gospel Revealed In God’s Holy Days”) how first Christ crucified (Lamb slain) is the Gospel in two words that can also be seen in shadow form in all the animal sacrifices from God clothing Adam and Eve when they sinned, to Abel’s sacrifice, to the sacrifices of the Patriarch’s, to those in the Levitical priesthood– especially during those 3 festival seasons given to Israel by God which all pointed to Christ’s Body, the true Lamb of God.  We covered how each of those Holy Day seasons, with so many lambs sacrificed, in shadow pointed to the true Lamb of God who justifies, sanctifies and glorifies everyone who is saved.  We saw how these 3 aspects of Christ’s ministry of the salvation of man are foreshadowed in each of the 3 particular holy day seasons, Passover (justification), Pentecost (sanctification) and Tabernacles (glorification).

Now’s let’s carefully look at the three writings of John the Apostle: the Gospel account of John, then his epistles (I, II & III John) and finally the Book of Revelation.  When taken as a whole, a pattern emerges.  The very first time John, the Apostle, saw Jesus he heard John the Baptist give the declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).  In his writings you might say John, the Apostle, starts his Gospel account by talking about light coming into the world which is the same as the Lamb of God, and he ends his writing in Revelation talking about the Lamb of God who is the light.  Then in his epistles his focus is about walking in that light.

John’s Gospel Account As it Relates to the Passover Season

When we take a closer look at the Gospel of John and compare it with the other Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke for events surrounding the Passovers that Jesus observed during his 3 1/2 year ministry, the Gospel of John stands out from the others.  For the weeks surrounding just the final Passover, we can see that unlike the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke, over half of John’s Gospel account, 11 chapters out of 21, all center on this time period.  Also, much of 3 other chapters (John 2, 3 and 6) tell of the events surrounding the other Passovers in Jesus’ 3 ½ year ministry, thus filling in what is missing in the other Gospel accounts.  That’s around two-thirds of John’s Gospel account recording what Jesus said and did at Passover time.  John’s emphasis is the spiritual reality of the shadow of the Passover.  In much of chapters 2 & 3 John covers the first Passover (John 2:13) where Jesus tells the Jews in the Temple, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).  At this Passover proclamation “… He was speaking of the temple of His body.  Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered… and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said” (v-21-22).  It was also at this first Passover time He tells Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:15-16).  Looking to that serpent (Israel’s curse and penalty of sin) in the wilderness was foreshadowing Christ with His crown of thorns hanging on a cross bearing our penalty.

Much of chapter 6 surrounded His 2nd Passover (John 6:4) where only John’s account reveals the most controversial declaration that Jesus ever made when He said, “ ‘I am the living bread of life which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’  The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’  Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day’” (John 6:51-53).  All that the Jews could see was a historical fact that bread from God (manna) came down from heaven, but they couldn’t see the reality of the true bread which came down from heaven nor the true meaning of Passover which Jesus was proclaiming that is embodied in the Lord’s Super (read I Cor. 11:23-26).

In his Gospel account John reveals the true meaning of the Passover.  John and the other disciples would not fully understand what Jesus was saying about His death and the full meaning of His parables until after they received the Holy Spirit.  They would then understand what He meant when He said, “And if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto myself” (John 12:32).  Of all the festivals, John’s Gospel account of Jesus coincides with that first of the 3 festival seasons called Passover.

We are justified by His blood (Rom. 5:9).  He is our Passover, the true Lamb of God (I Cor. 5:7).

John’s 3 Epistles Relate to the Second Festival Season– Pentecost

John’s next body of work are the 3 epistles (I, II & III John) which focus on sanctification and correlates to the second festival season, Pentecost.  Since we now through the Holy Spirit have fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we are to walk in the light, loving one another, but not loving the world or the things of the world (I John 2:15).

To the Jews, Pentecost represented the barley harvest that was consecrated or sanctified through the wave sheaf offering of the first fruits made 49 days earlier (Lev. 23:9-14). To most of them it seemed to have nothing to do with the coming Christ.  For we as Christians, Christ was the real (true) first fruits who sanctifies the whole harvest (Rom. 11:16).  He was raised from the dead and is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (I Cor. 15:20-23) and through Him we will be made alive.

To many of the Jews in John’s day Pentecost also represented the time of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, which was estimated to have taken place about 50 days from the exodus from Egypt (Ex. 19:1-17).  John’s emphasis is not on sanctification through the Law from Sinai, but through Christ and faith in His teachings.  John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  We are sanctified through Christ, our Passover, our First Fruits.

Read 1st, 2nd & 3rd John and see how those epistles are all about the sanctification ministry of Jesus Christ.  For example, I John 2:5 says, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.  By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”  He walked in true agape love and true Godly righteousness.

I John 2:8-11 “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.  He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness and walks in darkness….”

It’s all about sanctification.  Ch. 3:3 “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Also in v-14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.”  John spoke often about the love (agape) which comes from God and uses this word throughout his writings.

V-23 & 24 “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love (agape) one another, as He gave us commandment.  Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him.  And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”  John said it again in I John 4:13 “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”  We walk as He walked, keep His commandments and love one another by the Spirit He has given us.  Do you see how sanctification and the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost are linked with John’s epistles?  Remember, with carnal man it is impossible to know the things or ways of God.  God must reveal them to us through His Holy Spirit who will teach us all things.  “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning.  If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life…. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him” (I John 2:24-27).

Again, Pentecost is linked by 49 days to the wave sheaf offering where Christ was accepted by the Father.  God chose the Feast of Pentecost to send the Comforter, His Spirit to His church (Acts 2:1-4) and we are sanctified through Christ in us by receiving His Holy Spirit.  Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19).  Christ sanctifies us (perfects holiness- see II Cor. 7:1) as we continually abide in Him (the true Vine).

I John 4:7-10 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love (agape) is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God for God is love (agape).  In this the love (agape) of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love (agape), not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

V-12 “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.”  3rd John 11 says we are not to imitate what is evil, but what is good.  John’s epistles are all about sanctification by abiding in Him through His Spirit.  This correlates with Pentecost and focuses on His Commandments that we believe on Him and love one another.

John’s Third Work—Revelation Relates to the Fall Festivals

John’s third body of work is the book of Revelation which is about the second coming of Christ, the Lamb of God.  The events in the book of Revelation correlate to the third festival season (Tabernacles) which is about the return of Christ and can be spiritually seen through the fall Holy Days of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and Last Great Day.  It’s about the glorification of the Lamb.   Through Christ Jesus we who are His are resurrected or changed at the last trump (I Cor. 15:52).  Just as we are justified by Him and sanctified by Him, we too will be glorified together with Him as joint heirs (Rom. 8:17, 30).  As we then will no longer be flesh and blood we will inherit the Kingdom of God of which the thousand-year millennium starts our first day of eternity as glorious spirit beings.  The Lamb at His coming will overthrow the kingdoms of this world for He is Lord of lords and King of kings.  There will be a restitution of all things for mankind to be at one with God.  As the Day of the Lord ends, after the final judgment and death is destroyed, it culminates in the book of Revelation to picture the Last Great Day of the Feast—an eighth day of eternity with God and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem.  For those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, their ultimate eternal spiritual destiny is to be with Him (marriage supper of the Lamb) and our Father in that city coming down from Heaven “whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10) that all the people of faith have sought.    Today our Lord is in His Father’s house preparing a place for us that we may be with Him (John 14:2-3).

The holy days always have been about The Lamb who, like His Father, was (past) and yet is (present) and is to come (future).  We rejoice spiritually in those three festival seasons because He came (Passover), He has come (Pentecost) and He is coming again (Tabernacles).   He is our yesterday (Passover), today (Pentecost) and forever (Tabernacles).  What Christ did, is doing and will do should be the primary focus of the 3 holy day seasons.  We can also see how the three festival seasons also coincide with the three writings of John the Apostle (Gospel- Passover, epistles- Pentecost and Revelation- fall Holy Days of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, Last Great Day) which also coincide respectively with justification (Passover), sanctification (Pentecost) and glorification (Tabernacles).  All of this is made possible because of Christ (the Messiah) crucified.  The wisdom of God’s ultimate creation plan from the beginning before the physical creation of the world has always been for God, who is agape love, through His wisdom and power to have His “Lamb slain” (“Christ crucified”) to completely deal with sin (missing the mark of agape love/true righteousness).  He reveals this Gospel plan both in the shadow of the holy days and then in the reality of the cross.  To cast a shadow, light needs to hit an image and the image casting a shadow is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:17).

It’s far too easy for us to get distracted from what Paul summarized in those two words– “Christ crucified”.  Like the Jews not understanding the significance of all those lambs being slain during those three festival seasons, so do many Christians today ignore the holy days revealed by God to ancient Israel.  To them these are nothing but old covenant words about ancient Israel’s history without any real significance or connection to Jesus Christ for us to understand as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God the Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  There are some Christians who do come together to worship in a type of love feast, worshiping God in spirit and in truth.  Too many other Christians, myself included in years past, have come together during those three festival seasons only to hear messages centering on Lev. 23 or in some independent fellowship group only to hear an agenda driven message about one God or Torah observance.  On too many Feast days Jesus Christ barely even getting an honorable mention somewhere in the messages.  “Why are we here?” was often the start of many festival sermons.  The answer should always be because of “Christ crucified”, the “Lamb slain”– that’s why we are here!  The answer has been there all along from Genesis to Revelation.  For all of us, it’s only when we continuously focus on and understand the centrality of “Christ crucified” revealed in those three seasons along with the words of Christ and later given through His Apostles (including the 3 writings of John), that we can see more clearly the true meaning of the Gospel.  To coin a phrase about Jesus Christ, “He is the reason for the season” of the Holy Days.

The feasts are not about matzo crackers, calendar timings or the study of what some ancient Jewish scholars thought, so we can better our Hebraic understanding of these days.  We should never get mired down in distracted messages with organizational agendas or take our eyes off of Him as too often is the case in many “why are we here… now let’s turn to Lev. 23” type sermons.  “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  The plan of God’s salvation for mankind through Christ Jesus is revealed in shadow form in the Holy Days pointing to “Christ crucified”, the “Lamb slain” from the foundation of the world.  What He did is central to the plan of God.

There is a vast Kingdom/realm that exists today, existed yesterday and will always exist (please see the next article titled “The Apostles Perspective of the Kingdom of God” in another 3 part series).  How can we be a part of that Kingdom? — through “Christ crucified”, the “Lamb slain” from the foundation of the world.  That is the good news!  He is the “reason for the season” of the holy days.  They all point to Him and the redemption of mankind through His work of justification, sanctification and glorification.

Each one of us are betrothed to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.  It is with this in mind let’s always remember and live by those words of Paul in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Written by Lee Lisman