Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
These Are Written, That . . .
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30, 31).
All four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — present the same message to the same recipients. All four present a record of the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to the Jewish people, with each presenting the matter from a different perspective. Each gospel presents different facets of a complete word picture, with the four gospels together forming the complete picture.
The gospel of John though should be looked upon and considered unique among the other gospels in a particular respect. It is the only one of the four gospels that provides a specifically stated purpose for particular events that the Spirit of God moved John to record several decades after these events occurred.
The gospel of John is built around eight signs depicting events that occurred during Christ’s ministry to the Jewish people. These signs were divinely designed to effect belief among the Jewish people. And, though many Jews believed, the nation at large remained in unbelief, climaxing this unbelief by rejecting and crucifying their Messiah.
Then several decades later — during the period covered by the book of Acts, during the re-offer of the kingdom of the heavens to the Jewish people (which lasted from 33 A.D. to about 62 A.D.) — the Spirit of God singled out eight signs (from among all the signs that Jesus had performed) and moved John to record them in his gospel. And the purpose for the Spirit moving John to record these eight particular signs is given near the conclusion of the gospel, in John 20:30, 31.
These eight signs, forming a framework around that in which the gospel of John is built, were recorded for exactly the same purpose for which they were originally performed. They were originally performed to effect belief among the Jewish people during the offer of the kingdom of the heavens, during Christ’s earthly ministry, as recorded in the gospel accounts; and they were recorded in the gospel of John to effect belief among the Jewish people during the re-offer of the kingdom of the heavens, during the ministry of the apostles, as recorded in the book of Acts.
This is the reason why, in the book of Acts — in line with Romans 1:16; 2:9, 10 — the apostles and others always, without exception, went “to the Jew first” in every locality where the message was proclaimed. It was only after the message had been proclaimed to the Jews in a particular locality (invariably followed by rejection) that those proclaiming the message were free to go to the Gentiles in that same locality with the same message (which, of necessity, because of the message, could only have been saved Gentiles).
This is also the reason why one can know that the gospel of John — recorded to effect belief among the Jewish people relative to Christ and the proffered kingdom — was written at a time before the close of the re-offer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel, sometime before about 62 A.D.
More often than not a late date is assigned to the writing of the gospel of John (usually between about 85-95 A.D.). However, no valid reason exists for this late date. And, not surprisingly, many scholars who study these things recognize and contend for a much earlier date for the gospel (some as early as 45 A.D.).
All of that though is neither here nor there, for the internal evidence provided by the gospel reveals that the gospel of John had to be written during the time of the re-offer of the kingdom of the heavens to the Jewish people. The Jewish people could not have been singled out in the specific manner seen in John 20:30, 31 — concerning “signs” in relation to the Messianic King and His Kingdom — had the gospel been recorded following the time of the re-offer of the kingdom to the Jewish people.
As previously seen, these verses in John chapter twenty refer back to eight signs, among numerous other signs, performed for a particular, revealed purpose during the original offer of the kingdom; and, as also previously seen, they could only have been singled out and recorded for exactly the same purpose during the re-offer of the kingdom.
“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”
The key words in the first part of verse thirty-one are “believe,” “Christ,” and “Son.” And the manner in which all three words are used must be understood in the light of the introductory reference to “signs” in the previous verse, which reflects back on all the signs that Jesus performed (“And . . . many other signs . . . .” [v. 30a]), whether recorded or not recorded in the other three gospels. Then, remaining within the context, the manner in which all three words are used can only have to do with the Son’s previous ministry to the Jewish people in relation to His kingship and the proffered kingdom.
1) “That You May Believe”
Belief among the Jewish people during both the original offer of the kingdom (recorded in the gospel accounts) and the re-offer of the kingdom (recorded in the book of Acts) had to do with exactly the same thing. It had to do with the Person presenting the message (Jesus the Christ, God’s Son), and it had to do with the message being proclaimed (the kingdom of the heavens).
Belief during the original offer of the kingdom had nothing to do with eternal salvation, for Christ came to a people who were already saved. They, as their ancestors, going all the way back to Moses (throughout thirty-five generations, covering over fourteen centuries), had sacrificed paschal lambs year after year (though breaks in the offering of sacrifices would have occurred at times during Gentile dominance [during the time of the Judges] or during Gentile captivity [the subsequent Assyrian and Babylonian captivities]). And, as during Moses’ day (as before or after that time) there was death and shed blood — that which God has required since Adam sinned in Eden.
And, when Christ came to Israel four millennia following man’s creation and subsequent fall, God could only have looked upon the matter in exactly the same manner as He had previously looked upon it during Adam’s day or during Moses’ day. The statement from Exodus 12:13, “. . . when I see the blood, I will pass over you . . . .,” must remain true throughout all time.
During Moses’ day, the blood properly applied (on the doorposts and lintel) showed that death had already occurred in that house. The firstborn in the family, under the sentence of death, had died via a substitute. There was a vicarious death, and God was satisfied.
And exactly the same thing, of necessity, would have had to be true over fourteen centuries later when Christ came to the Jewish people. The Jewish people were still sacrificing paschal lambs year after year. And with the death of these lambs and the shed blood properly applied, the result of that which God had instructed the people to do during Moses’ day could only be the same. When God saw the properly applied blood, He, remaining true to His Word, could only have been satisfied that the firstborn had already experienced that which had been decreed — death.
(According to Hebrews 10:4, 11, the blood of animals during Old Testament times could not “take away sins,” though this blood could cover sins. But, the blood of Christ, to which all of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed, could do more than cover sins. The blood of Christ could take away sins [cf. Leviticus 16:21, 22; Psalm 103:12; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Hebrews 10:12-18 (“reconciled” or “reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 — Greek: katallasso — has to do with bringing back into harmony, not through covering sin but by doing away with sin)].
Then, inseparably associated with the preceding, Christ was “slain from the foundation [Greek: katabole] of the world” [Revelation 13:8]. Katabole is a compound word — kata means “down,” and bole means “to cast.” The word has to do with God casting down, laying, the foundation upon which the earth was built [created] in the beginning, which takes one back to a time anticipating Genesis 1:1.
All of the Old Testament sacrifices formed types that pointed forward to some facet of the person and work of Christ, in the antitype, as they had to do with and were based upon Christ’s finished work at Calvary. And these same Old Testament sacrifices could also only reflect back upon and be intimately associated with the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.”
The latter [the Lamb slain at a time anticipating Genesis 1:1 and man’s subsequent creation and fall] allowed for the former [the Old Testament animal sacrifices]. And as well this allowed for God’s satisfaction through animal sacrifices during 4,000 years of Old Testament history. Then, the whole of the matter is inseparably tied to that which subsequently occurred at Calvary.)
The regenerate state of the Jewish people at Christ’s first coming allowed that which is seen in the gospel accounts to occur — an offer of the kingdom of the heavens to the Jewish people. Otherwise, there could not have been an offer. The kingdom could not then and it cannot today be offered to unregenerate individuals. A person must first possess spiritual life before spiritual values of this nature can enter into the picture.
And, as well, this is the only reason that there could have been a re-offer of the kingdom to Israel, which, of necessity, had to be limited to about thirty years. The same saved generation living before Calvary remained on the scene following Calvary. But when that generation began to pass off the scene via death some three decades later (replaced by Jews refusing to avail themselves of the blood of the Paschal Lamb slain in 33 A.D., which fulfilled the Old Testament type introduced in Exodus chapter twelve, rendering any future slaying of paschal lambs on the Passover by the Jewish people non-efficacious), the re-offer of the kingdom, of necessity, could no longer continue. A saved generation of Jews, to whom an offer of the kingdom could be extended, no longer existed beyond about 62 A.D. when the re-offer of the kingdom, of necessity, came to a close.
Thus, contextually in John 20:31, belief involves the Jewish Messiah in relation to the kingdom, not eternal life. And this is evident from not only that which precedes (signs) but that which the verse goes on to state (“that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”).
2) “That Jesus Is the Christ”
The name “Jesus” means salvation (Matthew 1:21). The Greek word translated “Jesus,” Iesous, is the equivalent of the Hebrew words Yeshuah (meaning “salvation”) or Jehoshua (“Joshua,” a cognate form of Yeshuah, meaning exactly the same — “salvation”).
The word Yeshuah is used about eighty times in the Old Testament and it is always used in the sense of “deliverance,” and it is usually translated “salvation” (e.g., Genesis 49:18; 2 Chronicles 20:17; Isaiah 12:2).
Then the name “Joshua,” appearing numerous times in the Old Testament, appears in the New Testament twice, in Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8. “Joshua” in the Greek text, as previously noted is Iesous, distinguished from the name “Jesus” only through the context. And a failure to take the context into consideration apparently caused the KJV translators to erroneously translate the word as “Jesus” in both Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8.
“Deliverance” or “salvation” in Scripture though (both Old and New Testaments), as the use of the name Iesous in the New Testament (meaning “salvation”), must be viewed contextually to determine which type deliverance or salvation is in view. Sometimes it is used relative to one’s physical life (Matthew 14:30; 24:13; Luke 23:35, 37, 39); other times it is used in the sense of bodily healing (Luke 8:36, 48, 50; 17:19; Acts 4:9; 14:9; James 5:15); other times it is used in the sense of a present saving or losing of one’s life (soul), relating to spiritual values rather than physical life (Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24); other times it is used with respect to salvation in relation to the Messianic Era (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; Acts 2:21; 4:12; James 5:20); and other times it is used with respect to one’s eternal salvation (John 3:17; Acts 16:31).
Several of the preceding, such as bodily healing or the saving of one’s life, would relate to the Messianic Era. The healing of an individual formed a sign showing that which the entire nation (the Jewish people) could experience if the nation would repent. Deliverance in relation to the Messianic Era would occur (note the message being proclaimed in the KJV: “Repent ye [a plural pronoun, the entire nation]: for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand” [Matthew 3:2; cf. Matthew 4:17-25; 10:5-8]). And an individual presently losing his life, as in Matthew16:25, has to do with the saving of his soul in relation to the future Messianic Era.
In the preceding respect, most of the references to “salvation” in the New Testament relate either directly or indirectly to the Messianic Era, not to eternal life. And the thought of salvation through the use of the name “Jesus” in John 20:31, both textually and contextually, is used in exactly this same sense.
Then, note that which the Jewish people would be expected to believe through a manifestation of signs: “that Jesus [Salvation] is the Christ . . . .”
The word “Christ” is a translation of the Greek word Christos, referring to Israel’s Messiah. The word “Christ” as it is used in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament is Mashiah, from which we derive our English word “Messiah.” Then, to come full circle back to the word in the Greek text of the New Testament, the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) translates the Hebrew word Mashiah as Christos.
The word Mashiah means “anointed.” Mashiah is used thirty-eight times in the Old Testament, and the word is always translated “anointed” except in two instances where it has been translated “Messiah” (Daniel 9:25, 26, KJV). The verb form of Mashiah is used about sixty-five times in the Old Testament and is also translated “anoint” or “anointed,” with only a couple of exceptions (KJV).
Thus, the reference to “Jesus the Christ” is a reference to Jesus the Anointed One.
Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed (cf. Numbers 35:25; 1 Samuel 15:17; 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16; Isaiah 45:1). Also the tabernacle and all of the things in the tabernacle were anointed (Exodus 40:9, 10; Leviticus 8:10, 11).
Jesus, during His earthly ministry occupied the office of Prophet; He is presently occupying the office of High Priest; and He will one day occupy the office of King. There would be an anointing in connection with all three, fulfilling the triad of Old Testament types. But John 20:31 does not refer to all three. Rather, textually and contextually, the reference is to the last, that of King.
Satan is God’s anointed, who presently occupies the office of king in relation to the earth, though in a rebel capacity. Ezekiel 28:14, referring to Satan, states:
You were the anointed cherub who covers [protects, guards]; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God [a mountain signifying a kingdom] . . . .”
The word “anointed” in this verse is a translation of the Hebrew word mimshah, a cognate form of mashiah, meaning exactly the same.
Today there are two anointed Kings in relation to the rulership of the earth (the “holy mountain of God” in Ezekiel 28:14), typified by two anointed kings in Israel during Saul and David’s day (following Saul’s sin and David subsequently being anointed king in Saul’s stead).
Satan, as Saul, was anointed and placed over a kingdom; and Jesus, as David, was anointed King while the first ruler (Satan) still held the scepter. And, exactly as in the type, the one whom God originally placed in power, the one who sinned, is to one day be removed (Saul in the type was removed [1 Samuel 31:1-6]; Satan in the antitype will be removed [Ezekiel 28:15-19]); then, as David ascended the throne during his day (2 Samuel 1:1-16; 2:4; 5:3-5), Jesus will ascend the throne during His coming day (Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15; 19:11-20:6).
The type has been set, and its inseparable, divinely designed connection with the antitype cannot change. The antitype must follow the type in exact detail.
This is what is in view in John 20:31. The reference back to the signs is with a view to the Jewish people believing that Jesus is the Anointed One, the One who will one day take the kingdom and rule the earth for 1,000 years (the central message dealt with throughout Scripture). And the thought of salvation in connection with the name “Jesus,” contextually, would, of necessity, have reference to deliverance during the Messianic Era, not to eternal salvation.
3) “The Son of God”
“Sonship” in Scripture implies rulership, for sonship is centrally for regal purposes in the governmental structure of God’s kingdom.
“Sons of God” (angels) presently rule throughout God’s kingdom, whether on this earth, other provinces throughout the galaxy, or provinces throughout all the galaxies forming the universal kingdom of God. All angels, whether fallen (as Satan and his angels) or unfallen (all the other angels) are sons of God, else angels (fallen or unfallen) could not rule.
Angels are sons because of creation. Unlike that which occurs in the human realm, there is no procreation in the angelic world. Each angel is a special, individual creation, providing the status of sonship.
Adam was a son of God because of creation (Luke 3:38), which was completely in line with the reason for his creation, given in the opening chapter of Genesis:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion . . . [Hebrew: radah, “rule”; i.e., “. . . and let them rule . . . .”]” (Genesis 1:26a; cf. vv. 27, 28).
Man was created to rule. Thus, the reason for man’s sonship at the time of his creation is evident. Man was created to rule the earth in the stead of Satan and his angels. Satan and his angels, through sin, had disqualified themselves. But Satan, with angels ruling under him, must continue to hold the scepter until his successor is not only on the scene but ready to ascend the throne.
Knowing the reason for man’s creation, Satan, the incumbent ruler, began a work designed to bring about man’s fall and disqualification (Genesis 3:1-7). But following man’s fall, something occurred that had not occurred at the time Satan fell. Following man’s fall, God provided a means of redemption for fallen man, with a view to man ultimately occupying the position for which he had been created — holding the earth’s scepter.
And, as previously noted, redemption didn’t await the appearance of the Redeemer 4,000 years later (Genesis 3:15, 21), who was slain at a time before man’s creation and fall. Redemption is seen throughout Scripture, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. There is absolutely no difference, with God’s satisfaction concerning the sin problem surrounding man dependent on death and shed blood throughout.
Then, when the Redeemer did appear, He appeared as God’s Son, the second Man, the last Adam (Matthew 2:15; 3:17; 1 Corinthians 15:45-47). He, like the first Adam, was tested. But, rather than being overcome by Satan, He overcame Satan, showing that He was fully qualified to take the scepter (Matthew 4:1-11). Thus, through the second Man, the last Adam, the purpose for man’s creation and redemption (following his fall) will be realized.
(For additional information on this overall subject, refer to the author’s books, The Most High Ruleth and God’s Firstborn Sons.)
“and that believing you may have life in His name”
The key words in the second part of verse thirty-one are “believing” and “life.” And, as in the first part of the verse, both words must be understood in the light of the introductory reference to “signs” in the previous verse, which reflects back not only on the previous eight signs in the gospel of John but upon all the signs that Jesus had performed, whether recorded or not recorded in the other three gospels. Then also, as in the first part of the verse, remaining within context, both words can only have to do with the Son’s previous ministry to the Jewish people in relation to His kingship and the proffered kingdom.
1) “And That Believing”
The key words throughout Scripture are “believe” and “faith”; and both, in reality, are the same word. One is a verb (Greek: pisteuo; believe), and the other is a noun (Greek: pistis; faith).
But without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe . . . .” (Hebrews 11:6a).
And faith (or belief) is connected with the whole of man’s salvation, whether that of the spirit, the soul, or the body (cf. John 3:16; Romans 1:17; 8:13-23; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 Peter 1:3-9).
The reference to believing in the latter part of John 20:31 has to do, not with the salvation that we presently possess (the salvation of the spirit), but with present and future aspects of salvation (the salvation of the soul). Believing, with a view to “life” in this verse, has to do with the saved and that which lies ahead for those among the saved who exercise faith.
It has nothing to do with the unsaved. And because “signs” and the saved alone are in view, it would be difficult to even make a secondary application relative to the unsaved.
(For additional comments on “faith,” refer to the material earlier in this chapter under the subheading, “That You May Believe.”)
2) “You May Have Life in His Name”
(The expression “in His name” is somewhat lacking as a proper translation from the Greek Text. R.C.H. Lenski, in his Greek commentary on John, possibly captures the expression best — “in union, in vital connection with, His name” [cf. Psalm 138:2; Philippians 2:9-11].)
Life,” in keeping with the text and context, must, as well, also be understood as having to do with that which lies ahead for the faithful among the saved, not with eternal life through believing for the unsaved. And, during the offer and re-offer of the kingdom, that life would have been realized for saved Jews in the proffered kingdom.
And, since the saved and the Messianic Era are in view, an application could be made for Christians (though apart from signs), for the realization of “life” is seen elsewhere to be exactly the same for the saved today — believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God — a revelation that comes only from above (Matthew 16:15-17).
Note 1 John 5:1-5 in this respect.
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome [heavy, burdensome].
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.
Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
The expression, “born of God” (i.e., “brought forth from God,” or “brought forth from above” in John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23) is used ten times in six verses in 1 John (2:29; 3:9 [twice]; 4:7; 5:1 [three times]; 5:4; 5:18 [twice]). Also see John 1:13, where the expression is the same as in 1 John, “born . . . of God.”
The references from the gospel of John, 1 John, and 1 Peter form all the places in the New Testament using these two expressions, which refer to the same thing — a bringing forth from God, from above. And the usage throughout, textually and/or contextually, always has to do with a bringing forth in relation to the saved, not the unsaved.
A bringing forth from God, from above is contrasted in Scripture with a bringing forth from below (connected with Satan), which can be seen through two experiences of the apostle Peter in Matthew 16:15-17, 21-23. As seen in Jesus’ statements concerning both, there is a bringing forth from above in the first (vv. 15-17) and a bringing forth from below in the second (vv. 21-23).
In the first, relative to Peter’s confession concerning Jesus’ true identity — “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16) — Jesus said:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (v. 17)
In the second, relative to Peter’s denial and rebuke of Christ concerning His approaching death, burial, and resurrection — “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (v. 22) — Jesus said:
Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (v. 23)
In this respect, there are only two places in which man can conduct and govern his affairs — from above or from below — in line with the thought that a person is either for Christ or against Christ (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23). There is no middle ground in either instance (cf. I Corinthians 15:45-50).
As previously shown, being brought forth from God, from above, in the gospel of John, 1 John, and 1 Peter has to do with Christians alone. This though is not to say that man is saved through a means other than a bringing forth from above, for unsaved man cannot be saved through any other means. Rather, it is to say that references to a bringing forth from above in these eleven verses in three New Testament books do not refer to salvation by grace, the past aspect of salvation. Instead, without exception, all of them have to do with present and future aspects of salvation, the salvation of the soul (life), with ramifications having to do with the Messianic Era.
That seen in relation to the Jews in John 20:31 (concerning the previously referenced signs) is exactly the same thing seen relative to Christians in 1 John 5:1-5 (apart from signs).
There is a bringing forth from God, from above, in both instances. The manner in which the gospel of John begins, the far context, John 1:13; 3:3, 7, would show the first (in John 20:30, 31); and the second, in 1 John, is seen in the text itself (in 1 John 5:1, 4).
Believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is seen in both references (John 20:31; 1 John 5:1, 5); and coming into possession of “life” in John 20:31 is seen through overcoming the world in 1 John 5:4, 5, for overcoming is with a view to realizing “life” in the coming Messianic Era (note the overcomer’s promises in the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2, 3).
(For additional information on “born of God” in 1 John [or in the gospel of John and 1 Peter], refer to chapters 7-9 in this book or to the author’s book, Brought Forth from Above.)