Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
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 that came into existence]. (John 1:1-3)
John began his gospel in the same manner in which Moses had begun the book of Genesis over fourteen centuries earlier, though from a different perspective. Both began with creation, and both continued with a septenary arrangement of events that carries the reader through six days, into a seventh day.
In Genesis, this sets the stage for that which is seen throughout the remainder of and beyond Genesis — a book (Scripture as a whole) built upon this septenary structure. And, viewing this same structure in the opening two chapters of the gospel of John, exactly as it had previously been set forth in the opening two chapter of Genesis (Genesis 1, 2a; John 1, 2a), the stage is again set for that which follows — a book (the gospel of John) built upon this septenary structure.
Beginning in this manner, this septenary structure is then seen in each of the eight signs, whether referencing days leading into the Sabbath, referencing the Sabbath itself, or relating a sequence of events that lead into the Sabbath. Seven of the eight signs are structured in the former manner (referencing particular days, in connection with events); and the remaining sign, the fifth sign, is structured in the latter manner (referencing events, in connection with particular days).
Thus, the gospel of John is built around eight signs; and the whole of the book rests upon a septenary structure, established at the beginning of the book, with this septenary arrangement of events leading into the first sign.
The Book of Genesis
The book of Genesis begins with the creation of the heavens and the earth (1:1). Then the book immediately relates the ruin of the creation (1:2a). And this, in turn, is immediately followed by revelation surrounding the restoration of the ruined creation over six days of time. This restoration is then followed by the creation of man, for the creation had been restored for man (1:2b-31; cf. Isaiah 45:18b). And a seventh-day rest followed (2:1-3).
This forms the introduction to not only Genesis but to Scripture as a whole. The complete story of Scripture is told in the opening thirty-four verses of Genesis. And the remainder of Scripture is simply commentary, providing all the sinews and flesh to fully clothe the skeletal framework set forth at the beginning.
To illustrate, note the complete sequence following creation: A ruined creation existed, God restored this ruined creation over six days time, and He then rested the seventh day. And any subsequent ruined creation — if restoration were to occur through divine intervention — would, of necessity, have to be restored in exact accord with the pattern that God Himself had previously established, at the beginning of His Word.
(Note that God does not, He cannot, change His revealed works in previously established patterns. God is immutable; God is unchangeable. Once He has established a pattern, as seen in the opening thirty-four verses of Scripture, perfection exists within the pattern, and it can never change.
“For I am the Lord, I do not change . . . .” [Malachi 3:6a].
There is only one revealed way in which God restores a ruined creation — the one way that He Himself established and revealed at the beginning of His Word — which leaves only one way in which He can [remaining true to His Word] restore ruined man, a subsequent ruined creation. In this respect, all the basics concerning man’s restoration following his ruin [i.e., all the basics concerning his salvation following his fall] have been set forth in the opening chapter of Genesis, forming biblical truths relative to soteriology [the doctrine of salvation], which can never change.
The restoration of ruined man must be understood from the standpoint of how God had previously set matters forth in the prior restoration of a ruined creation. The matter must be carried back to this point. In this respect, in order to have a correct foundation upon which to build, teachings surrounding soteriology must be carried back to and understood correctly at their beginning point, the point where God began.)
Man was created on the sixth day, immediately following God’s restoration of the ruined material creation (1:26-28; 2:7, 21-23). Then, through satanic intervention, man was reduced to a ruin (3:1-7). Satan, through seeking to exalt his throne, had previously brought about the ruin of the material creation (Isaiah 14:12-17); and Satan, through deceiving the woman, causing her to eat of the forbidden fruit, now brought about man’s ruin.
Once man’s ruin had occurred, once Adam as the federal head had eaten of the forbidden fruit, if man was to be restored, it had already been revealed how God would accomplish this task and that which He would do after man had been restored. In accord with that which is revealed in the opening thirty-four verses of Scripture, God would work six days to perform and complete man’s restoration; and He would then rest the seventh day.
And that is exactly what began to occur in Genesis 3:21, in complete keeping with God’s immediately preceding promise in verse fifteen:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head [He shall crush your head], and you shall bruise His heel. (Genesis 3:15)
Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
Shortly after man’s fall, God began a work of restoring the ruined creation. This would continue for six days, six thousand years; and God would then rest the seventh day, the seventh one-thousand-year period.
This septenary structure in God’s work of restoration and rest is something that can be seen pervading all subsequent Scripture. For example, God later gave the Sabbath to His people, Israel, for a “sign” that He was performing a present six-day work and would rest the seventh day, following the completion of His work (Exodus 31:13-17). And though the Sabbath was given to Israel alone, God relates in the book of Hebrews that a Sabbath rest awaits the people of God, setting the whole of that which the Sabbath foreshadows before Christians as well (Hebrews 4:9).
Then note something about the references to the Sabbath in both Exodus and Hebrews. In each instance, reference is made back to God’s work of restoration in Genesis 1:2b-25, with God then resting on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3; cf. Exodus 31:15-17; Hebrews 4:3, 4). Attention is called in each instance to the established pattern, providing a parallel between God’s past work of restoration and His present work of restoration that no one should miss.
Some call attention to the apostle Peter’s statement in his second epistle (2 Peter 3:8), drawing from the ruin and restoration in Genesis, along with the events on the Mount of Transfiguration (1:15-18; 3:3-7), in an effort to show that each day in the latter restoration and rest is 1,000 years in length. However, this is like referring to the mention of 1,000 years six times in Revelation 20:2-7 to show the length of the coming Sabbath rest.
Both Peter in 2 Peter and John in the book of Revelation provide climactic material, material forming apexes on the subject, material that had previously been dealt with extensively throughout portions of the Old and New Testaments, beginning with the opening chapters of Genesis.
1) Comparing Scripture with Scripture
God’s work during the six days in the opening chapter of Genesis is usually understood and taught as creation alone (i.e., verses describing God’s creation of the heavens and the earth, from verse one, over a six-day period of time). Then, what could only be part and parcel with this type thought, individuals invariably see little to no significance in the septenary structure of these six days when combined with the seventh day of rest following (cf. 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:2-8).
However, if Scripture is compared with Scripture, and the whole of subsequent Scripture is viewed in the light of that which is seen beginning in Genesis 1:2, the preceding cannot possibly be the correct understanding of this opening section.
The Hebrew words translated “without form and void” (tohu wavohu) in Genesis 1:2a are used together only two other places throughout all of the Old Testament — in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23. And both of these passages present a ruin of that which is previously seen as existing in an orderly state.
In Isaiah 34:11, Edom [v. 6] was destined to become tohu wavohu (translated “confusion” and “emptiness” [KJV], “desolation” and “emptiness” [NASB]); and in Jeremiah 4:23-28, there is a comparison of that which had previously occurred relative to the earth in Genesis 1:2a to that which was about to occur relative to the land of Israel.
The land of Israel was about to become tohu wavohu. That is, as seen in Jeremiah 4:23-28, God was about to do the same thing to the land of Israel (cf. vv. 14-22) that He had previously done to the earth in Genesis 1:2a. And the reason for God’s actions, in both that which He had done and that which He was about to do, was the same — sin had entered (sin on the part of Satan in the former, and sin on the part of the Jewish people in the latter).
And in complete keeping with this type understanding of the use of tohu wavohu in Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23, Isaiah 45:18 (where the Hebrew word tohu is used) clearly states that God did not create the earth (Genesis 1:1) in the manner described in Genesis 1:2a. Isaiah 45:18 clearly states that God “created it [the earth] not in vain [not tohu].”
Thus, if Genesis 1:2a is to be understood in the light of related Scripture bearing on the subject, there can be only one possible interpretation — the ruin of a prior existing creation (from v. 1), because of sin. And the ruin seen in both Genesis 1:2a and Jeremiah 4:23, for a purpose, is with a view to eventual restoration. The latter is seen in the continuing text of Genesis 1:2 (vv. 2b-25) and in the overall passage of Jeremiah 4:23ff (v. 27b), as well as in related Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 35:1ff).
Then, the whole of subsequent Scripture is perfectly in line with this understanding of the type in the opening section of Scripture. The whole of subsequent Scripture is built on a septenary structure, with the foundation established and set in an unchangeable fashion at the beginning, in Genesis 1:1-2:3.
That is to say:
The heavens and the earth were created, there was a ruin of the material creation (because of sin), God took six days to restore the ruined creation, and He rested the seventh day.
Man was created on the sixth day, man fell into a state of ruin (because of sin), God is presently taking six days (6,000 years) to restore man, and God will rest the seventh day (the seventh 1,000-year period [cf. 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:3-8]).
And the latter, patterned after the former, is what the whole of Scripture is about. The whole of Scripture is about the same thing initially introduced and established in an unchangeable fashion in the opening thirty-four verses of Genesis (1:1-2:3). The whole of Scripture is about the creation of man, his ruin, his restoration over a six-day period (over a 6,000-year period), followed by a seventh day of rest (a seventh 1,000-year period — the Sabbath rest awaiting the people of God [Hebrews 4:9; cf. vv. 3, 4], the Messianic Era).
Man would have been expected to understand this opening section of Scripture after the preceding fashion at the time it was written, and subsequent Scripture simply verifies the correctness of the way man would have been expected to understand these verses (apart from other revelation at the time Genesis was written).
2) Only One Possible Conclusion
Through comparing Scripture with Scripture, and in the light of Scripture as a whole — i.e., in the light of the soteriological nature of the whole of Scripture following man’s fall, which is set in a septenary structure — there is only one possible way to interpret and understand Genesis 1:1-2:3. These verses, solely from the standpoint of an interpretation and understanding from Scripture, can be understood only one way. They can be understood only as a ruin following creation, a restoration of the ruined creation over a six-day period, and a day of rest following the restoration.
Seeking to understand these opening verses after any other fashion is out of line with the way Scripture itself handles the matter — something that could only form a beginning basis for unsound biblical study. The latter is true simply because any person beginning Genesis after a fashion other than the manner in which God clearly reveals that He began His revelation to man would be laying an incorrect foundation upon which to build as the person moves on into and seeks to understand subsequent Scripture.
The Gospel of John
And, as previously stated, this septenary, soteriological structure of Scripture is true not only relative to the manner in which the book of Genesis begins but relative to the manner in which the gospel of John begins as well. The manner in which the gospel of John begins (in chapters 1, 2a) forms an exact parallel to the manner in which the book of Genesis begins (in chapters 1, 2a).
In John, as in Genesis, there is a creation, a ruin of the creation, a restoration of the ruined creation over six days time, and a day of rest following the restoration. And this opening part of John’s gospel, drawing from and calling attention to the opening verses of Genesis, again clearly shows the only way in which Genesis 1:1-2:3, from a biblical standpoint, can possibly be understood.
Creation is seen in John 1:1-3; the ruin of the creation is dealt with in connection with the restoration and is seen two different ways, in John 1:4-2:1; the restoration is seen occurring over six days time (cf. 1:29, 35, 43; 2:1), and events on the day of rest, the Sabbath, are seen occurring immediately following the restoration (John 2:1-11).
Creation in the opening chapter of Genesis begins with the material creation. This is what was both ruined and restored in Genesis, with man being created on the sixth day, preceding the day of rest.
John, in his gospel, presents matters surrounding God’s creative activity from a different perspective. John brings everything together (the material creation, angels, animals, man) in one all-encompassing statement:
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 that came into existence]. (John 1:3)
In this respect, the first three verses of John’s gospel form commentary for Scripture dealing with any part of God’s creative activity, whether past, present, or future (cf. Genesis 1:1, 21, 27; 2:3, 4; Isaiah 43:1; 65:17; Ezekiel 28:14, 15; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Nothing within God’s creative activity has ever occurred or will ever occur apart from the Son.
For by Him [in connection with Him] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him [created through Him and with respect to Him].
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [and in connection with Him all things have been brought together]. (Colossians 1:16, 17)
In verse seventeen, the word “is” is a translation of the Greek word eimi. This word, as in John 1:1, 2, 4, is used in a timeless sense — a sense with respect to an existence without a beginning or an end (ref. chapter 2 of this book). And, in keeping with the use of eimi in this respect, the verb translated “consist” in the same verse (or, perhaps better translated as shown in the preceding, “have been brought together”) is in the perfect tense in the Greek text, pointing to a work occurring during past time that exists during present time in a finished state.
Thus, viewing Colossians 1:16, 17 together, all things (cf. John 1:3) were created in connection with, through, and with respect to Christ. And, in connection with Him (One existing apart from a beginning or an end), these things have been brought together in past time and continue that way during present time.
2) Ruin of the Creation
The ruin in Genesis chapter one had to do with the material creation. In John chapter one, though an allusion is made back to the ruin of the material creation in Genesis (v. 5; cf. Genesis 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:6), the ruin has to do with man (seen throughout the chapter in man’s need of a Savior). In this respect, Genesis sets forth the type and John the antitype. Genesis foreshadows that which is seen in John.
Man, created on the sixth day immediately following the restoration of the material creation (Genesis 1:26-28), fell. Through satanic intervention, man was reduced to a ruin (Genesis 3:1ff). John, in his gospel, picks up at the point of the ruin having occurred and calls attention to light shining out of darkness, connecting this light with God’s Son, the Word made flesh, the Lamb of God (1:4-14, 29-36).
In the preceding respect, man’s ruin is seen indirectly at the beginning of John’s gospel two different ways: (a) it is seen through light shining out of darkness (an allusion back to Genesis 1:2-5, drawing from light shining out of a ruin in God’s original restoration of a ruined creation, forming an unchangeable pattern concerning how God restores a ruined creation); and (b) it is seen in the appearance and introduction of a Deliverer, a Savior (whose appearance and introduction would be unnecessary if man’s ruin had not previously occurred).
And John, beginning at and drawing from the restoration in Genesis 1:2b, connects the light shining out of darkness with the Deliverer, the Savior, the Lamb of God. Thus, from how the Spirit of God handles the matter in the opening chapter of John (when He moved John to pen his gospel), one can know exactly what the Spirit of God was foreshadowing through His order of events during the six days of Genesis chapter one (which He, almost fifteen hundred years earlier, had moved Moses to pen).
3) Restoration over Six Days
Again, numerically, John deals with the antitype of that seen in Genesis. He moves through six days, into the seventh; and, from that seen occurring on the seventh day, the six days could only be thought of as connected with restoration (in keeping with light shining out of darkness, the appearance and introduction of a Savior inseparably associated with this light, and in keeping with the fact that the original pattern in Genesis is structured in this manner [i.e., six days of restorative work preceding a day of rest]).
John 1:29 moves events from the first to the second day (“The next day . . . .”); verse thirty-five moves events into the third day (“Again the next day . . . .”); verse forty-three moves events into the fourth day (“The day following . . . .”); and John 2:1 moves events into the seventh day (“And the third day . . . .”).
In this respect, the numerical structure of John 1, 2a would not only be in complete keeping with the numerical structure of Genesis 1, 2a but with the whole of Scripture as well.
Within this septenary framework, Scripture begins at two numerical points to move into the seventh day: (a) the complete six days, as seen in Genesis chapter one (cf. Matthew 17:1ff), and (b) the last two days, as seen in sections of Scripture such as Hosea 5:15-6:2 and John 11:6, 7 (i.e., after six days, on the seventh; and, after two days, on the third). Then, both would be seen together in a section of Scripture such as Numbers 19:11-22.
And the latter is exactly what John does in the beginning of his gospel. He moves through all six days, into the seventh; but he specifically singles out the last three (including the seventh), showing exactly what is seen in other parallel Scriptures (cf. Hosea 6:2; Matthew 17:1; Luke 24:7, 21, 46; 1 Corinthians 15:4).
4) Rest on the Seventh Day
On the third day, the seventh day, all of God’s firstborn Sons will be raised up to live in His sight — Jesus (God’s only begotten Firstborn Son), Israel (God’s adopted firstborn son), and the Church (following the adoption into a firstborn status).
Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, pointing to His elevation and exaltation in that coming day — to the third one-thousand-year period dating from the crucifixion.
Israel will be raised from the place of death on the third day, the third one-thousand-year period dating from the nation’s death, the nation being set aside. Note Jonah and Lazarus as types of Israel in this respect.
The Church, “in Christ” and in one respect presently occupying the same position occupied by Christ during His two days in the tomb — with future life emanating out of present death (cf. Philippians 3:10, 11; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-4) — will, following the adoption, be raised up with Christ on the third one-thousand-year period dating from the inception of the Church.
And on the third day, or on the seventh day, the events foreshadowed by the first sign in John’s gospel will occur. These signs have to do with Israel, necessitating that Israel be seen occupying the central place in that to which the signs point. And that is exactly what is seen in the first sign, pointing to events that will occur on the third or the seventh day when the nation has been raised up to live in God’s sight.