Who is John the Apostle?

John the Apostle (presumed author of the book of John, the three letters of John, and Revelation) was one of the greatest disciples of Jesus Christ, described in the Bible as “the one Jesus loved.”  In truth, all we know about him is from the Bible.

He’s the son of Zebedee and brother of James the apostle.  His mother was probably Salome who was the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus, who was one of the ones to discover Jesus’ tomb empty after his crucifixion.  This would have made Jesus and John cousins.  His family were fishermen along the Sea of Galilee.  He had some wealth since it is mentioned he had hired servants.  He probably knew the high priest (John 1:35) and so had connections.

He is first mentioned as the disciple of John the Baptist.  He meets Jesus and follows him through his 7-month sojourn in Judea, Samaria, and back to Galilee.

He is at the raising of Jairus’s daughter, the Transfiguration, and nearest to Jesus in Gethsemane.  He fled when Jesus was arrested but stood near the cross when Jesus was crucified, where he received Jesus’ commission to look after his mother (John 19:26).  He’s the first to recognize Jesus after his ascension (John 21:1-7).

After this, John is only briefly mentioned.  He’s with Peter at Pentecost for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Paul mentions him Galatians 2:9 and then in Revelation as the author of that book.

According to tradition, John spent the last years of his life in Ephesus and then on the island of Patmos in exile.  He died in Ephesus some time at the end of the first century AD.  He is believed to be  the only disciple not to be martyred and die a natural death.

In sum, by all accounts John lived an extraordinary life (who wouldn’t walking by the side of Jesus?), fulfilling God’s purpose for his life and converting countless to Jesus along the way.  Although we can’t walk with Jesus, we can live such a life–the life God meant for us to live–and touch countless in the process as well.

Introduction to the Book of John

The Book of John (written by John the Apostle scholars believe at the end of the first century AD in Asia Minor) spells out clearly who Jesus is, why he was sent here by God, and what we must do a) to be saved b) once we are saved.  John states his purpose near the end of the book: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

John skips the baby Jesus images and instead focuses on 20 days in Jesus’ life and the important words Jesus said during those days from his baptism to his resurrection.  We will read 7 miracles, best read in units (although I’m sure we’ll break it up in BSF to analyze them in pieces).  We will read some of the most famous words in the Bible (John 3:16) and see familiar verses and phrases such as Jesus “I am” sayings.  We will read more teachings on the Holy Spirit than any other gospel.

From the beginning John asserts Jesus is God and came from heaven.  John tells us no one knew Jesus better than he did.  He walked with Jesus.  Stood by the cross.  Entered his tomb.  This is the spiritual gospel, different from the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), which are commonly known as the Synoptics.  Synoptics means “common view”.  The first three have a view of the whole and go over the same stories, themes, sequence, and wording.

The emphasis in the book of John is on the King, not the kingdom.  Christ’s work in Judea is highlighted.  Time and place of events are in the forefront.  It focuses on great length of 24 hours of Jesus life (chapters 13-19) and of the Holy Spirit.

Evidence shows this gospel was widely read from the second century on and therefore probably influenced Christian thought more than any other New Testament book.

The first half of this gospel shows how Jesus revealed his glory to the world and was still rejected (chapters 2-12).  The second half of the gospel (chapters 12-21) shows Jesus’ last hours on earth, his death, and his resurrection (perfect for Easter when we get there!).

You will note John explaining Jewish customs throughout this book and where places are located.  This is because his target audience was Gentile Christians living in and around Ephesus.

Major themes from the first sentence to the last:  Jesus as the Word, light, life, regeneration, grace, forgiveness, and truth and the revelation of God the Father in Jesus His son.  Jesus has come to reveal the Father to all and bring eternal life to all who believe in him.

John is essential reading for all Christians and gives us tools to explain to others (using Jesus’ own words) who Jesus is and what he does for us.  Understanding the book of John is the key to understanding Jesus and therefore God.  This study will change lives!


A)  Jesus’ public ministry (John 1-12)

1)  Revealing himself to ever-widening circles, rejected (ch 1-6)

2)  Making his tender appeal to sinners, bitterly resisted (ch 7-10)

3)  Manifesting himself as the Messiah by two mighty deeds (the raising of Lazarus and his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem), repulsed (ch 11-12).  This is the turning point in the narrative.

B)  Jesus’ private ministry (John 13-21)

1)  Issuing and illustrating his new commandment (ch 13)

2)  Tenderly instructing his disciples and committing them to the Father’s care (ch 14-17)

3)  Dying as a substitute for his people (ch 18-19)

4)  Triumphing gloriously (ch 20-21)

(Outline taken from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 4, Day 2: Revelation 2:1-7

Summary of passage:  John addressed the church in Ephesus and its angel (or messenger or priest or church).  Jesus says he knows of the church’s hard work and how they have tested false prophets and endured hardships.  Yet, they have abandoned him and need to repent or face the consequences.  To those who hear him and overcome, they will receive the tree of life or the paradise of God.


3a)  The seven stars are the leaders of the seven churches John wrote to which are represented by the seven lamp stands.

b)  Jesus holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks amongst the seven lamp stands.  (Jesus is with us and holds us always).  He knows everything about us–deeds, perseverance, and hard work.

4)  Part Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus knew their deeds, hard work, perseverance, testing of false prophets, and hardships.  And he knew they had turned from him, not heard the Spirit, and not repented of their sins.  I work hard and persevere.  My deeds for Jesus could be more.

5)  Acts tells us to examine what the false prophet is saying with the Word to see if it aligns with God’s teachings.  Romans tells us to allow God to transform our mind and not the world and then we will be able to know God’s will.  1 Corinthians says if a person curses Jesus, that is not from God.  Galatians says don’t compare yourself to others.  2 Timothy says all Scripture is true.  Hebrews says constant use of God’s word and ways will train you to distinguish good from evil i.e. know the word; know the truth.

6)  Just that:  persevere and endure hardship for Jesus.  Don’t bend.  Don’t waver.  Stand strong.  Know him.  Trust him.  Believe him.

Conclusions:  Good review of false prophets (we studied this last year in the Life of Moses).  3a was redundant.  Question 6 was self-explanatory.

My take-away:  Jesus/God knows everything:  our struggles, triumphs, dreams, and hearts. Good reminder as I pray and pray for my novel to be a success.

End Notes:  This is commentary on verses 1-3 as these questions focus on these verses.  Commentary on verses 4-7 will follow tomorrow’s lesson.

For analysis of 7 stars and 7 churches, see last week’s post HERE.

The letters are published here to each church in Revelation 2 & 3.  The structure of each letter is the same:

An address to a particular congregation
An introduction of Jesus (“These are the words of…”)
A statement regarding the condition of the church
A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
A command from Jesus to the church
A general exhortation to all Christians
A promise of reward

As previously discussed, the angel is probably the pastor of the church but the letter is to every member.

Ephesus was well known in the ancient world much like New York City today.  It held the famous temple of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, (Reconstruction picture HERE) and was a haven for immoral behavior namely sex with temple attendants.  The temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It was so important it was completely rebuilt 3 times, finally being destroyed in 268 AD by the Goths and dismantled entirely in 401 AD by St. John Chrysostom.  Paul, Aquilla, Priscilla, Timothy, and John all ministered here.  MAP of Ephesus

Today the site is covered in swampland due to flooding and hence the remains of Ephesus are obscured.

Jesus is introduced just like in John’s vision–with power and authority over the church.  The Greek word for holds shows Jesus is in charge.

Jesus knew the church’s condition.  Patience here in Greek means “steadfast endurance.”  These were people with God’s heart.

Paul warned the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31 about false prophets and evidently they took it seriously. So must we all be ever wary of falsehoods.

The church has patience and perseverance–great example for us today.

IMPORTANT:  Jesus ALWAYS in these letters and admonishes addresses the positive first, then he rebukes.  Good example for us today.  Acknowledge how good someone is doing, then tell them how to improve.

Commentary on verses 4-7 will follow on Day 3 as those questions focus on those verses.