Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
Deliverance during a Storm
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,
got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.
Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.
So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.
But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going. (John 6:15-21)
The fifth sign in the gospel of John, in John 6:15-21, has to do with Christ’s departure into a mountain, a storm out on the sea in which the disciples (in a boat) subsequently found themselves, Christ walking toward the disciples on the sea, the disciples’ receiving Him into the boat with them, and the geographical location in which they, immediately following, found themselves.
These events point to Christ’s departure from Israel into the heavens two thousand years ago (v. 15), the coming Tribulation (vv. 16-18), Christ’s return (vv. 19, 20), the nation receiving Him (v. 21a), and the nation’s subsequent restoration to the land (v. 21b).
This is the only sign not providing a specific reference to particular days, but the chronology in this sign must be understood in the light of the other seven signs.
In the Mountain, Alone
This sign, as the previous sign, has to do with Christ departing into “a mountain,” which signifies a kingdom (cf. Psalm 2:6; Isaiah 2:2-5; Ezekiel 28:16; Daniel 2:35, 44, 45; Matthew 16:28-17:5). Christ departed into a mountain on this occasion because he perceived that the crowd following Him was about to, through force, attempt to make Him a King.
The signs being exhibited had to do with Israel and the kingdom, they were being performed by the King of the kingdom Himself, and they showed that which Israel could have if the nation would repent. The people apparently understood the nature of the signs and the identity of the One in their midst performing the signs. But, without repentance on the part of the people, matters relative to the King, Israel, and the kingdom could not progress beyond the signs. Thus, when the people were about to bypass repentance and attempt to forcefully make Christ a King — seeking to, themselves bring in the kingdom through a means other than that ordained by God — Christ is seen moving aside into a mountain, alone.
The kingdom was still in view. The kingdom could be seen through the signs being performed, God’s dealings with the Jewish people, and the mountain into which Christ had moved. Nothing really changed in this respect, but Christ’s actions at this point spoke volumes about something that occurred in Israel almost 2,000 years ago as well as something quite similar that is also occurring throughout a large segment of Christendom today.
Many Israelites at Christ’s first coming sought to bypass God’s ordained and revealed way in which the kingdom was to be established, and many Christians today are doing something very similar, immediately preceding Christ’s return. And, relative to the whole of the matter, Christ can be seen in exactly the same position both times.
In time past, Christ separated Himself from that which was occurring among the people; and, during the present time, with something very similar having made its appearance in Christendom, Christ’s position relative to the matter could only be exactly the same.
Whether past or present, Christ’s position relative to anything contrary to the revealed Word would, of necessity, have to be the same. God simply will not countenance that which is contrary to His revealed Word.
(That which is seen as something quite similar in Christendom today is often referred to as “Dominion Theology.” This name though is a misnomer. “Dominion Theology,” as it is called, is not a theology at all. Rather, it is a false ideology, appearing in a number of forms, which basically, in all its forms, teaches that the Church is to exercise dominion [in some form or fashion] relative to the kingdom during the present day and time [thus, the name, “Dominion Theology”]. And the Church is to accomplish this ideology through gradually bringing the world kingdoms under the dominion of Christ and His kingdom, making conditions ready for Christ to one day return and take the kingdom.
In this respect, the whole of that occurring in Christendom today is little more than another form of that which occurred in Israel during the first century. It is seeking, through certain actions of man, to bring Christ’s kingship to pass by having a part in gradually effecting the manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth.
This though is not the way matters are set forth in Scripture at all. In fact, Scripture presents the matter in exactly an opposite respect. Political activity for Christians is always set forth in Scripture as being in the heavens and future [after the kingdom of Christ has been established], not here on earth during the present time [when the present ruler, Satan, still exercises power in the kingdom].
And, beyond that, it would be impossible for Christians to gradually usher in the kingdom of Christ during the present day and time, for the kingdom of Christ does not presently exist on the earth, in any form or fashion. Rather, the kingdom of Christ, relative to any manifestation on earth, is future in its entirety. And this kingdom is to be ushered in through one means at one time alone — suddenly and swiftly by Christ Himself at the time of His return, when the Stone strikes that which is represented by the great image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, at its feet [the utter destruction of the final form of Gentile world power (Daniel 2:31-45)].
Christians may seek to exercise dominion today, and they may seek to bring segments of the existing world kingdom of Satan under the dominion that they vainly attempt to exercise, but, if so, they are acting completely contrary to that which God has revealed in His Word. And no matter how seemingly good, benevolent, or righteous something of this nature may outwardly appear to be, God can have nothing to do with it. Seeking to do something of this nature is acting contrary to God’s revealed Word, and God will not act in a reciprocal manner [blessing the work, etc.] in a realm contrary to that which He has revealed [cf. Matthew 7:21-23].
Because of existing problems in Christendom of the preceding nature, the importance of knowing the Word of God cannot be overemphasized. The very reason that people can be so easily misled in matters of this nature is because of the widespread ignorance among Christians of that which the Word teaches. The Word alone is the vehicle through which God has made known His plans and purposes to man. And man can only act in two realms in this respect. He can act in accordance with the revealed Word, allowing the Spirit to direct his paths; or, he can act apart from the revealed Word, which can only separate him from any possible action of the Spirit directing his paths.)
In the Evening, On the Sea
While Christ was in the mountain, alone, the disciples entered into a boat and found themselves out on a tumultuous sea. And while in a boat out on the sea the disciples further found themselves in the evening part of the day (the word translated “evening” is skotos in the Greek text, meaning “darkness” — referring, textually, to the dark part of the evening, which would be late evening).
Within the symbolism seen in the sign, the darkened evening part of the day places the timing of events about to transpire near the end of the dispensation, with the Israelites separated from the One who said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). And the dispensation in view is not the present dispensation but the preceding dispensation, which has seven years yet to transpire — the dispensation in which God has dealt and will yet deal with Israel. Events surrounding this sign have to do with Israel during and immediately following these final seven years.
(The present dispensation will end with the removal of the Church, comprised of all Christians, both the dead and the living [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. Then God will turn back to Israel and complete His dispensational dealings with the Jewish people during Man’s Day, which will occur through the fulfillment of seven remaining years in Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy [Daniel 9:24-27].)
“The sea” in Scripture is used in a dual metaphorical sense, signifying (1) the place of the dead, and (2) the Gentile nations (cf. Exodus 14:13-31; Daniel 7:3ff; Revelation 13:1). And, with respect to Israel, both would apply during the time surrounding events in the sign — the time foreshadowing events surrounding the end of the dispensation, which would be the time foreshadowing events during Daniel’s unfulfilled Seventieth Week.
During this time, the Jewish people are seen not only scattered among the Gentile nations but are viewed as in the place of death while out among the nations. But, as the disciples in the ship or as Noah in the ark, the Jewish people in that day will find themselves in a place of safety from the surrounding storm, during a time of darkness (not a place of safety extending to individual Jews, for millions of Jews will be slain during this time, but a place of safety having to do with the nation as a whole [Zechariah 13:8, 9]).
(Note that Jonah, cast out of the ship into the sea, presents another facet of the same picture concerning God’s supernatural protection of and care for Israel. Jonah is seen actually cast into the sea itself, and the giant fish that the Lord had prepared to swallow Jonah then became the means through which Jonah was protected from that depicted by the sea.
And though Jonah died in the belly of the fish [Jonah 2:2], after two days, on the third day, the Lord supernaturally intervened. After Jonah had remembered and cried out to the Lord, he was not only raised from the dead but the Lord caused the fish to vomit Jonah out upon dry ground. Jonah then heeded the Lord’s previous command and carried God’s message to the Gentiles [Jonah 2:2-3:3].
In that future day, the entire nation of Israel [the Jewish people presently in the land, along with those out of the land] will find themselves in exactly the same position as the disciples in the ship out on the sea or as Jonah once he had been cast into the sea and swallowed by the great fish — in the place of death, scattered among the Gentiles, awaiting resurrection and removal from the nations on the third day [cf. Ezekiel 37:1-14].
And resurrection and removal from the nations [from the sea], as in Jonah’s case, will be when the Jewish people remember the Lord and turn back to Him [cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14; Jonah 2:2-3:3]. It will be when repentance occurs [cf. Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 2:37-39; 3:13-21].
The Lord will then hear, remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and send a Deliverer [cf. Exodus 2:23-25; 3:2-10]. The nation will then be removed from the sea [removed from the place of death and from the nations] and be raised up to live in God’s sight [Hosea 6:1, 2]. And, as Jonah, the Jewish people will then heed God’s previous command and carry His message to the Gentiles [cf. Isaiah 53:1ff; Zechariah 8:23].)
1) A Time of Darkness, A Great Wind, A Tumultuous Sea
The coming Tribulation, covering time that fulfills the last seven years of Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy, is seen in Scripture as a time of trouble without parallel in human history — a period “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” And this period will be of such a nature that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:21, 23).
This is how approximately 2,600 years of Gentile world dominance and rule will end on the one hand; and this is also how the continued stubbornness and rebellion on the part of the Jewish people, over an even longer period of time, will end on the other hand.
God will allow the Gentile nations under the final world ruler during Man’s Day, under Antichrist, to bring about conditions of this nature. And history during Man’s Day will end with this type climax in order to bring the Jewish people to the place of repentance so that God can, in turn, place Israel in the position where the Gentile nations can be blessed through God’s restored wife, through His firstborn son.
The whole of the matter surrounding Gentile world dominance and rule, with the sea in view, is set forth in the imagery and metaphorical language used in Daniel chapter seven, which depicts conditions from the beginning to the end of the Times of the Gentiles. In this section of Scripture, “the four winds of the heaven” are seen to strive upon “the great sea,” with “four great beasts,” different from one another, coming “up from the sea.”
The picture of “four great beasts” arising from “the great sea,” with the winds striving upon the sea throughout (i.e., pointing to unrest, a tumultuous state, occurring throughout the whole of the Times of the Gentiles) is another depiction of that which had previously been introduced by means of the “great image” standing in Babylon in Daniel chapter two (vv. 31-45). The four parts of the great image in chapter two correspond to the four great beasts in chapter seven.
In chapter two, the final form of the great image is seen to incorporate all of the previous three forms. And, because of this nature of the final form of the image — having not only a form of its own but incorporating the previous three forms as well — with the destruction of the final form, there is a destruction of the complete image (vv. 44, 45).
This type destruction is also repeated in chapter seven, where the four great beasts are seen rising up out of a tumultuous great sea. After the complete sequence is given concerning the four great beasts, exactly as previously seen in chapter two after the complete sequence concerning the four parts of the great image had been given, the destruction of the whole is seen in the destruction of the final form.
After dealing with the fourth great beast, verse twelve references “the rest of the beasts [the previous three],” stating that though their dominion had been taken away (i.e., though God had removed them from their respective regal positions of power and authority, establishing others in their places [cf. Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:18-21]), “their lives were prolonged for a season and time.”
The first three succeeding empires, represented by that which is seen in the first three parts of the great image (chapter 2) or the first three great beasts (chapter 7), though destroyed millennia ago during the first several hundred years of the Times of the Gentiles, did not pass out of existence. Rather, they remained in existence, awaiting a final and complete destruction when the fourth part of the great image or the fourth great beast — one synonymous with the other — rises to power. Then, the whole of Gentile world power, as it has existed for slightly over 2,600 years, will be completely destroyed, never to rise again (Daniel 2:35; 7:26; 8:25; 11:45; Revelation 19:11ff).
Revelation chapter thirteen presents the same sequence pertaining to the fourth part of the great image or the fourth great beast, forming commentary on the book of Daniel. “A beast” is seen rising “up out of the sea” in Revelation 13:1. And, as seen in both Daniel chapters two and seven, and in this chapter in the book of Revelation, this final appearance of Gentile world power will occur yet future during exactly the same time depicted by events in the fifth sign in the gospel of John.
The darkness of the evening, a great wind blowing upon the sea, and the disciples in immediate danger because of that which was occurring are all seen in the sign, with the latter also seen in the books of Daniel and Revelation as well (cf. Daniel 3:19ff; Revelation 13:11-18; 17:16, 17).
All these things together are necessary as one begins to form a word picture, as depicted different places in both Testaments. God gave the complete picture through different individuals, using different means, at different times. And Christians reading and studying the matter today can be certain of two things in the preceding respect: (a) God gave everything necessary to see and understand the complete picture, and, (b) there is nothing superfluous in that which God has revealed. Everything that God wants man to know regarding His plans and purposes is in His revealed Word, and there is nothing in this revealed Word that does not exist for a divinely designed purpose.
2) Then, Deliverance
Deliverance in the sign occurred when the disciples were alone, in a boat, out on a tumultuous sea. It was then that they saw Jesus “walking on the sea and drawing near the boat.” The disciples seeing Jesus “were afraid.” Then, making the disciples aware of His identity, Jesus said, “. . . do not be afraid.” And following this, the disciples “willingly received Him into the boat” (cf. Genesis 45:1ff).
This fifth sign in the gospel of John foreshadows conditions and events exactly as they will exist and occur yet future. Israel will be alone, out on the tumultuous sea. That is, the nation will be separated from their Deliverer and scattered among the Gentile nations at a time when the tumultuous state among the Gentile nations reaches an apex. And this, as seen elsewhere in Scripture, will occur immediately before Gentile world power is utterly and completely destroyed.
It will be at such a time, after Israel has cried out to the Lord for deliverance, that Jesus will appear the second time to the nation. God will have used Gentile dominance and rule, extending over 2,600 years time, with matters being brought to an apex at the end of this period, for one central purpose: to bring about repentance on the part of the Jewish people, in order that God’s plans and purposes for His people, which include the Gentile nations, can be realized.
It will be at such a time that deliverance will occur, for reasons that God has clearly revealed in His Word.
Note the sequence of this deliverance as seen in the book of Exodus:
(The Israelites were residing in a Gentile land under Gentile persecution at the time Moses was born. And Moses, growing to manhood, was rejected the first time he appeared to Israel as their deliverer. Moses is then seen leaving Egypt, dwelling in another land, and taking a Gentile bride during the time of his rejection.
The day came though when the Israelites found themselves in such dire straits that they were left without a choice other than to call upon the God of their fathers for deliverance. When the Israelites did this, God heard, remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and sent Moses back to deliver them [Exodus 2:23-3:12].
Moses returned, and he was now received rather than rejected by the people. Deliverance of the Israelites and the destruction of Gentile power then followed [Exodus 5-14].
Then, note the same sequence of events in the antitype:
When Israel’s Deliverer appeared the first time to the nation, He was rejected. He then departed into another country. And while in this other country, during the present dispensation, He is taking a Gentile bride, as in the type.
The day is coming though, also as in the type, when the Israelites will find themselves in such dire straits that they will be left without a choice other than to call upon the God of their fathers for deliverance. And when the Israelites do this, as in the type, God will hear, remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and send Jesus back to deliver them.
Jesus will return, and He will be received, not rejected, by the Israelites [as Moses was received, not rejected, the second time]. Deliverance of the Israelites and the destruction of Gentile power will then follow, as in the type.
The type has been set, and the antitype must follow the type in exact detail. God established both the type and the antitype, and perfection must be seen throughout all correspondence between the two.)
Then, Immediately at the Land
And all the preceding will be with a view to that which can be seen occurring in the sign after the disciples had received Jesus into the boat (cf. Exodus 15:1-19; Numbers 13, 14; Joshua 1ff). The text reads:
“. . . and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going” (v. 21b).
After the disciples had received Christ into the boat, they not only found themselves delivered and removed from the tumultuous sea but they also found themselves in the land of their calling, the land of Israel. And their Messiah, who had brought these conditions to pass, was present in their midst.
Exactly as seen in the sign, after the Israelites have received Christ, they will be removed from the Gentile nations (be removed from the sea) and be placed in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, within a theocracy, as the wife of Jehovah and as God’s firstborn son. And their Messiah, who will have brought these conditions to pass, will be present in the nation’s midst (Deuteronomy 30:1-3; Joel 2:27-32; Matthew 24:29-31).
In that day the Jewish people will realize their calling as God’s witnesses to the Gentile nations (Isaiah 43:1-10). They will go forth with the message of Isaiah chapter fifty-three, “Who has believed our report? . . . .” And occupying the position of God’s firstborn son among the nations, Israel will possess the rights of primogeniture, with the nations ruled by and blessed through Israel.
In that day, completely different from today,
“. . . ten men from every language of the nations [‘ten,’ the number of ordinal completion, textually pointing to all among the nations] shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” (Zechariah 8:23; cf. v. 13)
The future for both Israel and the Gentile nations is as bright as the promises of God, but that which God has revealed about the future must be brought to pass God’s way, in God’s time.