Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
The Word Made Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made [lit., All things came into existence through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into existence which came into existence].
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . . (John 1:1-3, 14a).
John was moved by the Spirit to begin his gospel in exactly the same manner that the Spirit had moved Moses to begin the opening book of Scripture over fourteen centuries earlier. The Spirit had moved Moses to write, “In the beginning God . . . .”; and the Spirit now moved John to write, “In the beginning was the Word [with ‘the Word’ declared, at the end of the same sentence, to be God]” (Genesis 1:1a; John 1:1a; ref. John 1:1b).
Thus, Moses’ and John’s statements — though worded in slightly different manners — are identical, with the latter statement adding to that which the Spirit through Moses had already made known about God, supplying additional information and commentary.
Moses had introduced God after one fashion at the beginning of the Old Testament, using a plural noun in the Hebrew text — Elohim. But now, after Messiah had come, John introduces God after a slightly different fashion at the opening of one of the four gospels beginning the New Testament. “God” is now seen as the Word, and the verb used in the Greek text to link God with the Word — “. . . the Word was God” (v. 1b) — is a translation of the Greek word eimi, which is used in a timeless sense, a sense with respect to no beginning or ending. The Word always has been, and the Word always will be, “God.” It is impossible, from a scriptural standpoint, to separate the Word from God or God from the Word.
God, in respect, is seen from two perspectives in the Old Testament Scriptures — God’s revelation of Himself through His person (Genesis 1:1) and God’s revelation of Himself through His Word (John 1:1 reflecting back on Genesis 1:1). But the former is seen only through the latter, and the two are inseparable.
Then, John beginning at the same point as Moses in Genesis, calls attention to a different form yet of the revelation of the person of God — “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14).
Is the Word becoming (KJV, being made) flesh — the incarnation — a reference to God becoming flesh in the person of His Son? Or, is this a reference to the Word becoming flesh in the person of the One whom the Word, in its entirety, is about?
In reality, that’s asking the same question two different ways, for, in Scripture, God and the Word are viewed in an inseparable sense. “The Word [which was made flesh] was [Greek: eimi, always has been, always will be] God.”
The Word is simply God revealing Himself, His plans, and His purposes to man. The Word becoming flesh is simply God making this revelation of Himself known after another fashion, through His Son. It is the Old Testament, which in its entirety reveals the Father and His Son, becoming flesh. The Word cannot be separated from the Father, the Word cannot be separated from the Son, and the Father and the Son cannot be separated from one another.
This is the manner in which John begins His gospel, inseparably connecting the Son not only with the Father from Genesis 1:1 but with the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures.
The Written Word
Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. . . .
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled that were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” (Luke 24:25-27, 44).
Jesus, shortly after His resurrection, on the same day that He was raised from the dead, walked and communed with two disciples who were in route to Emmaus. And, though the events surrounding the crucifixion of the One whom they had believed to be the Christ was still uppermost in their minds, something was preventing them from recognizing Him at this time (Luke 24:17-24). Though their thoughts were centered upon the very One in their midst, they didn’t know Him (vv. 16, 17).
Why had they failed to recognize Christ at this time?
The answer is very simple, and it is given in the text. These two disciples had failed to recognize the One standing in their midst because, in the words of the very One speaking to them, they did not “believe in all that the prophets” had recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:25b). They did not know their own Scriptures (vv. 26, 27). They had not adequately availed themselves of the word picture that God had previously provided of Himself, of His Son.
In this respect, the religious leaders in Israel — more particularly the Scribes and Pharisees, and the Sadducees — had apparently paid more attention to God’s revelation than these two disciples. Israel’s religious leaders had recognized the Heir of the vineyard when He appeared, and this is why they “took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him” (Matthew 21:33-45).
Israel’s religious leaders brought about the rejection and crucifixion of Israel’s Messiah because they knew His identity. And there is really only one way that they could have known. They knew enough about the word picture that God had provided to properly recognize and identify Messiah when He appeared.
False messiahs had come and gone at different times throughout Israeli history, and the religious leaders had paid little attention to them. They knew that these messiahs were false, for their failure to manifest the means of identification that God had provided showed that they were false.
But when the Heir of the vineyard appeared, when the true Messiah appeared, things were entirely different. A manifestation of the provided means of identification showed, beyond question, His identity. And Israel’s religious leaders acted accordingly, though negatively.
Thus, in order to reveal Himself to these two disciples following His resurrection, Jesus, in conjunction with a rebuke, called their attention to the Old Testament Scriptures, to the word picture of Himself. Jesus called attention to that which, in its entirety, revealed the One who spoke to them. And He then began to open up and develop this word picture to their understanding.
Jesus, the living Word (which was/is/always will be God), called attention to the written Word to reveal Himself as the Word made flesh, i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures made flesh.
After the groundwork had been laid, after the word picture had been opened up and developed to a sufficient extent, Jesus, dining with them at their destination late in the day, “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (v. 30). And once He had broken the bread (which had been preceded by a revelation of Himself from the Old Testament Scriptures), things immediately came together for them.
The breaking of bread by the Bread of Life reflected back on events surrounding His broken body at Calvary, allowing these two disciples to properly understand the word picture that had previously been set before them. They now had the means to identify the One in their midst, given to them by Christ Himself. They had been given the written Word, which allowed them to identify the living Word, the Word that had been made flesh. And, once this had occurred, followed by the breaking of bread, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (v. 31a).
The Living Word
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
has in these last days spoken to us by [by means of] His Son, whom He has appointed Heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds [made the ages]. (Hebrews 1:1, 2)
In time past, throughout the first 4,000 years of human history, God revealed Himself, His plans, and His purposes to man through various means — e.g., theophanies or related direct communication (Genesis 3:8-19; 4:6-16; 6:13-7:5; 18:1ff), or dreams and visions (Genesis 37:5-10; 41:1ff; Daniel 2-12; Zechariah 1-6). But these different means of communication are not seen as separate from the Word, for they form part of the Word.
God simply does not reveal Himself apart from His Word. He never has, and He never will. Revealing Himself apart from the Word would be tantamount to revealing Himself apart from Himself, for “the Word [the Word alone] was [eimi, always has been, always will be] God.” Thus, this Word alone — living or written — reveals “God.”
Moving through the complete panorama of the Word being made flesh is the manner in which the Spirit of God moved the writer of Hebrews to open his epistle. The same One who had spoken to man through various means in time past has now, “in these last days,” spoken to man by means of His Son, the One whom He “has appointed Heir of all things.” And the Father can speak to man by means of the Son, while still remaining completely within the confines of the Word, for the simple reason that the Son is the Word made flesh.
The Canon of Scripture had not yet been completed when the Son appeared. Only the Old Testament had been completed — Genesis through Malachi. Following the completion of the Old Testament, about four hundred years elapsed before God again spoke to man (forming part of the Word). And that silence was broken through events surrounding the incarnation, the Word being made flesh (a star in the East, angelic ministry, etc.).
God, at this time, once again stepped into the affairs of man. But this time the manner was so unique that only an infinite, omniscient mind could conceive of this type manner of breaking the silence, and only an omnipotent God could bring the matter to pass.
God, this time, acted in the person of His Son. God took upon Himself flesh; the Word, which always has been and always will be God, was made flesh.
The completion of the Canon of Scripture following the appearance of the Son, in this respect, served the purpose of completing the written Word after a manner that would line up perfectly with the living Word, who had already appeared (through whom God’s complete revelation of Himself, His plans, and His purposes could be seen). And once this Canon had been completed (during the first century), for the first time in history, there existed a completed written revelation as well of God the Father and/or God the Son, brought into existence through God the Spirit moving men to pen this Word.
Is it any wonder that numerous religious groups today (cults, et al.) seek to cast reproach upon the entirety of the matter through their seemingly endless attempts to deny Christ’s Deity, or their seemingly endless attempts to validate extra-biblical revelation through supposed dreams, visions, theophanies, tongues, etc.? God always has and always will speak to man through one means alone — His Word. And, whether this is looked upon as the living or the written Word is immaterial, for the two cannot be separated.
The dreams, visions, theophanies, or any other form that revelation took prior to the completion of the Canon of Scripture, ultimately formed part of the Canon. And once the Canon had been completed, any type extra-biblical revelation could only be completely out of place. In the final analysis, such supposed revelation could only be outside the realm of Christ Himself — God manifested in the flesh — for it would be outside the Word. And One (the Word, or Christ) must line up perfectly with the Other (Christ, or the Word), for the incarnation is simply — no more than, no less than — the Word being made flesh.
In that respect, supposed extra-biblical revelation could only be extra-Christ revelation, or extra-God revelation. That is to say, such revelation, outside the realm of the completed Canon that the Spirit moved men to pen, would be outside the realm of both the Father and the Son.
The revelation of Christ is seen in the Word, or the revelation of the Word is seen in Christ. And if a person moves outside of this realm in supposed revelation (e.g., the Book of Mormon, numerous things seen in the Charismatic movement today), he, as previously stated, could only find himself outside the realm of Christ. The whole of the matter can be summed up in a manner that simple.
Then and Now
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine [teaching] . . . . (2 Timothy 4:1-3a)
The New Testament epistles — both the Pauline and the General, including the seven letters (epistles) to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation chapters two and three — provide different facets of information. And these epistles, written for and directed to Christians, contain not only information for the present time but information more specifically having to do with and related to the coming kingdom.
The epistles, in this respect, are much like the Old Testament prophetic books. No one book, standing alone, contained all of the information that God desired that the prophets convey to the nation relative to the people of Israel and the theocracy. Each book presented a different facet of the message, and all the books together presented a complete message, a complete picture.
The epistles, written for and directed to the one new man “in Christ,” to Christians, are similar. Each has been written with the coming kingdom of Christ in view. Each presents a different facet of the message, with all the epistles together presenting a complete message, a complete picture.
Paul’s second letter to Timothy comprises not only his closing words to Timothy but his closing words within all that he wrote, which make up slightly more than one-fourth of the New Testament. And the fourth chapter, beginning with a charge and an exhortation, comprises the closing part of the epistle.
Closing words, last words, are often words that people remember. But, has that been the case with Paul’s closing words throughout almost 2,000 years of Church history? And, more particularly, is that the case in the Church today?
In the Greek text of 2 Timothy 4:1, the word translated “charge” has a preposition prefixed to the word, which serves, in this case, to intensify the word. The word should be translated into English more in line with that seen in the NASB — “I solemnly charge . . . .” And then, the continuing structure of the Greek text would show that the words “God” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” must be understood as referring to the same person — i.e., “I solemnly charge you before [lit., ‘in the presence of’] God, who is the Lord Jesus Christ . . . .” (ref. chapter 2 of this book).
Then, the next statement in the text has to do with judgment at the time of Christ’s appearing and His kingdom, followed by a three-word exhortation: “Preach the Word !”
Paul, in his closing words, solemnly charges and commands Timothy, in the presence of God, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who will judge the living and the dead at the time of His appearing and His kingdom, “Preach the Word!”
In this closing charge and exhortation to Timothy, Paul did exactly the same thing John had done in the opening part of his gospel. He brought “God,” “the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “the Word” together in the same sense, though using a slightly different approach.
In the light of John’s opening statement in his gospel, the opening statement in the epistle of Hebrews, or other parallel and corresponding Scripture, Paul — charging Timothy in the presence of God, with a view to judgment and the kingdom — exhorts Timothy to proclaim the Word, the Word made flesh, who is God.
But, what has been the result after almost 2,000 years of Church history in this respect, immediately preceding Christ’s return? One need only look around to answer the question. The Church of today finds itself in a very similar condition to that seen in Israel at the time of Christ’s first coming.
No one though should be surprised. The end was foretold at a time both during and immediately following Christ’s earthly ministry.
Christ, during His earthly ministry, stated that at the time of His return He would not find “the faith [articular in the Greek text, forming an expression peculiarly related to the Word of the Kingdom] on the earth” (Luke 18:8). In the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, given in parabolic form in Matthew chapter thirteen, Christ, relative to “the word of the kingdom” (vv. 19-23), stated that the whole would become leavened (v. 33), exactly in line with His statement in Luke 18:8.
And in Revelation chapters two and three, which, among other things, foreshadows a history of the Church throughout the dispensation, matters move from a Church that had left its “first love” (Ephesus; 2:4b) to a Church that had become “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (i.e., the church at Laodicea; Revelation 3:17b).
In short, Scripture foretold that Christendom at the time of Christ’s return, relative to the Word of the Kingdom, would exist in the condition described in these three portions of Scripture. And this is the one place where the numerous segments of Christendom (e.g., fundamental and liberal segments) can find common ground.
This was the way matters existed in Israel 2,000 years ago, when Christ came the first time; and this is the way matters exist in Christendom today, immediately preceding Christ’s return.
1) Religious Leaders, the People, Then
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the most prominent of the Jewish sects in Israel 2,000 years ago. The Pharisees, by far the larger of the two, were what might be called the fundamental legalists; and, because of their numbers, they held sway over the religious life of Israel. The Sadducees, also quite numerous and influential, were generally more liberal in their outlook (cf. Acts 23:8). But both found common ground in their opposition to the message being proclaimed, introduced by John and continued by Christ and His disciples (cf. Matthew 3:7; 16:1, 6, 11, 12).
The central message proclaimed at Christ’s first coming had to do with an offer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel. And there was a re-offer of the kingdom to Israel following Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Both the offer and the re-offer were attended by supernatural signs. Supernatural bodily healings and provisions showed that which the nation could have if the nation would repent (cf. Isaiah 1:1-2:5).
Though what did the religious leaders do, leading the people of Israel to do exactly the same thing?
During the original offer, the religious leaders followed Christ about the country and sought opportunity, time after time, to counter the message being proclaimed. This resulted in a national rejection of the proffered kingdom and the ultimate crucifixion of their King.
Then, in the re-offer, this rejection by the religious leaders, misleading the people, continued. And, as in the original offer, after several years, the time came when death followed in the wake of rejection (Acts 7:51ff). This then opened the door for an unprecedented onslaught of persecution and death at the hands of Israel’s religious leaders (cf. Acts 8:1-3; 22:4, 5, 19, 20; 26:9-12).
2) Religious Leaders, the People, Now
The central message to be proclaimed to Christians today is quite simple to understand if one remains solely within the confines of Scripture. It has to do with that taken from Israel in Matthew 21:43; it has to do with the new nation — “a holy nation,” comprising “a royal [a regal] priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) — called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel had relinquished; it has to do with the Word of the Kingdom.
A person has been saved for a purpose, and that purpose has to do with the kingdom. An entire dispensation has been set aside, during which time God has sent His Spirit into the world to call out a bride for His Son. And this, as man’s salvation, has to do with the kingdom (ref. the author’s book, Search for the Bride).
The whole of Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, moves in one direction alone. It moves toward the coming kingdom of Christ. It moves toward that day when God will bring to pass a complete change in the earth’s government, to effect order out of disorder in the one part of God’s kingdom where sin entered.
But what is happening in Christendom relative to the proclamation of this message? What are the religious leaders doing? Again, one need only look around. Exactly the same thing that occurred in Israel relative to this message is being repeated, and the ultimate outcome will be the same.
The people were misled by their religious leaders then, and it was relative to a kingdom; and the people are being misled by their religious leaders today, and it is relative to the same kingdom.
Death (physical) was the ultimate outcome for numerous Christians then, and death (soulical [cf. Romans 8:13; James 1:21; 5:19, 20]) will be the ultimate outcome for numerous Christians today.
The admonition in 2 Timothy 4:2 is clear, plain, and simple: “Preach the Word!” Proclaim the written Word, which reveals the inseparable living Word.
The crying need in the Church today is singular: The proclamation of the pure, unadulterated Word of God.