Part I: John 1:1-18 | Part II: John 1:19-12:50 | Part III: John 13:1-20:31
Part IV: John 21:1-25 | Interlude: Gnosticism | Part V: 1 John
Part VI: 2 – 3 John

As we begin this final overview of obedience as exemplified through the writings of the Apostle John, it is of utmost importance that we start from a proper view of Revelation. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw” (Revelation 1:1-2). The primary phase of importance here is The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

First, the word revelation comes from the Greek word apokalypsis (this is where we get the English word apocalypse), which means to unveil or uncover. Unfortunately, in today’s culture the word apocalypse captures the notion of utter destruction due to the events laid out in this very book. However that is not a proper understanding of Revelation. In 1 Corinthians 14:6 Paul writes, “what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation [apokalypsei], by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching?” Also Peter states, “that the genuineness of your faith … may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation [apokalypsei] of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7; for additional passages see 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:13, and 4:13). If we view Revelation in apocalyptic (as in end of the world fire and brimstone) terms, we miss the true significance and purpose behind the letter. Linguistically, the way John uses the term apokalypsis closely coincides with his use of logos (Word) in the gospel letter. For the preexistent Word, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) is that which is doing the revealing and has been doing so from the beginning. Hence, the Greek term apokalypsis should connote not the contents of the revelation (i.e. not apocalyptic); but that something is being revealed and carries the characteristic of being divine.

Second, the relation of Christ to revelation highly matters. In this case, a common view is to hold that John writes concerning a new revelation, or prophecy, about Christ. A problem then arises pertaining to this view and the surrounding context as well as to the book as a whole. Christ is not the subject of the prophecy; The book of Revelation is not about Christ per se. Instead John is writing what Christ has proclaimed; Revelation is a declaration of future events from the mouth of Christ Himself. Therefore, a more literal rendering of “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” would be, The divine prophecy unveiled by Jesus Christ. This revealed truth was given directly from Christ to the Apostle.

In the first essay of this series I commented: “the whole message of today’s culture is justified in the pragmatic thought, ‘it works for me.’ On the aspect of religion, the pragmatist would ask: ‘does this particular religion work for me?’ If it does, then the pragmatist would convert to that religion; if it does not, then the pragmatist will continue exploring other options until he or she finds what works best for them. There is no room for absolute truth in this philosophy, only truth which is related to the individual seeking it. In this philosophy, experience always trumps reasoning” (Obedience: Our Conduct is Not Optional). In stark contrast to this philosophy of man is God’s Bible. For one who is a Christian, Christianity does not just work for them. Jesus Christ is the author of all things, the unveiler of that which is to come: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'” (Revelation 1:8). For one who is a Christian, Christianity is the way everything works; it is the correct outlook on life and on the human condition. Christianity then in this sense, literally means follower of Christ. As followers of Christ we acknowledge that being pragmatic when it comes to ministry is sin. God’s way is the only way that brings glory to Him; it is the only way that works.

In my second essay, the way in which obedience is lived out in a believers’ life was examined (see Obedience: Trust, Listen, Walk). Similarly around 50 years after His resurrection, Christ sends seven angels to the churches in Asia to remind them of who’s they are (Revelation 2-3). In each case, Jesus encourages them to repent of their sins and recommit their lives to Him. Following this, the Spirit’s role in our lives was looked at; focusing on the upper-room discourse, it was noted that “the empowering of believers through the Spirit comes through the authority of God and for the glory of God” (16:2-15). Everything God does has a doxological purpose. Therefore, that which brings glory to God should be our primary focus” (Obedience: The Spirit Our Teacher). Those who are listening for God’s Word, obey God’s Word.

The fourth essay in the series directly answered the question, “What are we supposed to do?” In our respective ministries Jesus calls us to follow Him. It is imperative that we allow Jesus to lead our lives and not follow our own whims (see Obedience: Jesus Said Follow Me). “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them'” (Revelation 14:12-13). These Tribulation Saints serve as an example for us to follow. They keep the commandments of God near and dear to their hearts. Their conduct is not optional; they trust, listen, and walk in His ways; they allow the Holy Spirit to guide them; and did not do their own thing but followed Christ in everything. And in the end they will receive their heavenly rewards, for their works follow them. These works in no way garner any favor with God, it is solely their faith in Christ which credits them eternal life; instead, these faithful deeds done in obedience store up heavenly treasures. Additionally, this passage should serve as warning that without faith in Christ these good deeds are only as good as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

The relationship between obedience and behavior takes center stage in John’s epistles. “If belief does not affect behavior, if the mind and heart are not in unity, or if love is not led by light… a person is anything but obedient. Furthermore, these aspects are cascading effects of faith. A believer cannot show true love without first allowing his heart and mind to act as one, and portraying his beliefs through his behavior” (Obedience: Being a Conduit of Love). The conduct of a believer towards not only unbelievers but fellow believers matters. This conduct then properly carries itself into the realm of relationships and the Doctrine of Separation. Christians show love by not allowing false teaching into their homes (see Obedience: Biblical Relationships).

It must be noted that blind obedience to God’s law is not what is meant, for that would make the coming of Christ no different than the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Yet, note the Apostle John, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17). The idea here is that complete grace has now come instead of grace. In other words, the Law was a form of grace and now through Jesus Christ we have complete grace beyond all measure; the pinnacle of grace. Therefore, obedience is not blind but performed for the glory of Him who saved us.

The Book of Revelation focuses primarily on the sovereignty of God throughout all history. It is here that we see the ultimate personification of obedience. Note the following, “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9); “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11). The ultimate personification of obedience is to perform God’s Will regardless of the outcome, to bring glory to God in every circumstance, even to the point of martyrdom.

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
(Revelation 21:22-27)

Advertisements